San Antonio police officer indicted in hit-and-run case

Dezi Rios, 39, was arrested on suspicion of DWI, failure to provide information

SAPD officer Dezi Rios (left) is accused of assaulting Ara Halibian (center) late Monday night. (Joshua Saunders, KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio police officer with a documented history of road rage incidents in his SAPD personnel file was indicted by a Bexar County grand jury this week in a recent hit-and-run and drunk driving case, according to the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.

Dezi Rios, 39, is charged with failure to stop and give information. He is accused of crashing into another driver’s vehicle that was stopped at a red light at the intersection of O’Connor and Stahl Roads, on July 5, shortly before midnight. He was also arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, though he has not yet been indicted on that charge.

Rios has not been charged with assault despite the driver’s allegations that the officer beat him up that night.

After striking his car, 61-year-old Ara Halibian said Rios briefly inspected the damage before returning to his car and speeding away.

Halibian, a licensed armed security guard, then pursued Rios, he said.

“I said, ‘I’m just going to stop him, get his license plate number, at least the insurance.’ He shouldn’t run away,” driver Ara Halibian told the KSAT 12 Defenders last week when asked why he followed Rios several miles.

After Rios’ vehicle hit the curb under an overpass at Bulverde Road and Loop 1604, Halibian walked up to the off-duty officer. That’s when Rios attacked him, Halibian said.

“He came and punched me right on my face,” said Halibian.

Halibian told the Defenders that he suffered a broken nose, significant trauma to his face and injuries to his shoulder, elbow and knee after being punched by Rios — according to Halibian’s count — between 20-25 times. Rios, however, told police that he was the one attacked by Halibian.

Rios, who has worked for SAPD for 14 years, has been on extended military leave since July 29, 2019, and is now suspended without pay from the department pending the outcome of investigations into his conduct, SAPD officials previously said. He is scheduled to be arraigned in County Court 4 on Aug. 5, court records show.

The incident marks the third publicly known instance of road rage involving Rios since August 2017.

In another incident, Rios was shot six times during a shootout outside All-Stars Gentlemen’s Club in May 2018, following a rolling altercation with a driver that started on Interstate 10 East and concluded after both men pulled into the Northwest Side parking lot.

The other driver, DeMontae Walker, was shot eight times during the exchange of gunfire and was paralyzed from the waist down.

A woman riding in Walker’s car was grazed in the head by a bullet but was able to run from the chaotic scene and seek medical attention inside the club.

Walker, who spent more than three months in the hospital, was originally charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

However, a grand jury in Dec. 2018 declined to indict him.

Rios, who was hospitalized but recovered and later returned to full duty, was issued a 15-day suspension after the shooting and transferred out of his role as a training instructor at SAPD’s academy.

Rios avoided being criminally charged, however, despite being in possession of a firearm while under the influence of intoxicants.

After the shooting, he refused to sign a release form that would have allowed SAPD internal affairs investigators to ask for medical records verifying his level of intoxication the night of the shooting, records previously showed.

Nine months before the shootout, in August 2017, Rios was listed as the victim in another road rage incident, near downtown.

The other driver in that incident, Nathan Pezina, described Rios as “aggressive, very short-tempered, careless.”

Pezina, then 20 years old, was driving in the outside lane in his Dodge Avenger when Rios, in a rented Ford Expedition, attempted to merge into his lane, according to an SAPD incident report.

While Rios told investigators that Pezina sped up to block him from merging, Pezina told the Defenders Rios was the aggressor, repeatedly swerving his vehicle and nearly hitting the front bumper of Pezina’s vehicle.

“I could tell in a way he was mocking me or laughing about it. Kind of a smug sort of demeanor to him,” Pezina said.

Rios told investigators that Pezina, while driving, lifted up a firearm and pointed it at him, causing Rios to fear for his safety, call 911 and then follow Pezina until on-duty officers pulled Pezina over on the on-ramp from Interstate 37 South to Interstate 10 West.

Pezina was charged with deadly conduct and unlawful carry of a weapon.

Bexar County court records show the unlawful carry of a weapon charge was dismissed and Pezina was given one year of probation after pleading no contest to deadly conduct in Nov. 2017.

Rios told officers who responded to the 2017 incident that he reached for his department-issued service pistol in his passenger seat, but then realized it was in the back area of the rented vehicle.

“He’s lucky he didn’t get smoked,” Rios was recorded saying on a fellow officer’s body-worn camera, after being allowed to sit in the front seat of a patrol vehicle while officers conducted their investigation.

About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Fares Sabawi has been a journalist in San Antonio for four years. He has covered several topics, but specializes in crime, courts, open records and data visualization.