San Antonio – Editor’s note: You can watch the story tonight at 10 p.m. on KSAT 12 or KSAT.com.
Janet Cruz didn’t know her ex-husband had won his first appeal until she saw the news coverage of his second.
SAPD Officer Javier Perales Jr. received two indefinite suspensions in about as many months. The first was in November 2017 for threatening Cruz and her father, a cancer patient. The second in January 2018 was, in part, for anonymously harassing another woman with her own explicit photos, SAPD investigators contend.
Perales appealed both cases, trying to win his job back through arbitration. He has already received a lower punishment for the first case - from an indefinite suspension, which is tantamount to a firing, down to a 45-day suspension.
Now he’s awaiting an arbitrator’s decision on the second case. Should an arbitrator decide to overturn this indefinite suspension, too, Perales could be back in an SAPD uniform.
Both sides submit their briefs in late February, and a decision is expected approximately 30 days after that, a city spokeswoman said.
When Cruz heard the reported details out of the latest hearing in November 2021, she “was really angry that he would probably get away with this, as he did with my arbitration with my father.”
Public records indicate that Perales has not been arrested for domestic violence or any other crime. Still, Cruz says he uses threats to intimidate people, and she does not think he deserves to get back his job as a police officer.
“I really think he’s - he’s a predator. He preys on the weak - mainly women… and my father; he was weak,” she told KSAT in an exclusive interview. Cruz agreed to be identified by name but not be shown on camera out of concern for her privacy and concern for her job.
First indefinite suspension
Cruz was at the heart of Perales’ first indefinite suspension, which he appealed in hearings in August and September 2020.
Perales had seen Cruz’s father in a hardware store in August 2017 and believed the older man, who was undergoing chemotherapy at the time, was ignoring him.
He unloaded on Cruz via text, telling her “I’m telling you now if u talks shit I’m knocking him out,” and “After I f*** him up, I’m going to f*** u up.”
Perales didn’t follow through on his threat of physical violence, which contributed to an arbitrator downgrading his punishment to a 45-day suspension.
His legal team submitted several other cases that resulted in lighter discipline than what Perales received.
The arbitrator decided “the indefinite suspension was not fair and just in comparison to the lax treatment in the other cited cases,” and that “The hearing process developed a finding that the Chief had assessed prior discipline for lesser days of suspension for the same or more egregious conduct.”
The cases presented by Perales’s legal team included:
- A 45-day suspension for an officer who had struck his wife in the face and choked her.
- A 90-day suspension for an intoxicated officer who shot a gun into his mattress, and whose estranged wife fled to a neighboring residence to call the police.
- A 15-day suspension for an on-duty officer who grabbed his girlfriend by the wrist and ordered her out of a nightclub while she was dancing with another man.
Though she wasn’t alerted when Perales won his appeal, Cruz said she wasn’t surprised
“Based on the cases that they presented during the arbitration, it did make sense,” Cruz said.
KSAT made several unsuccessful attempts to reach Ben Sifuentes, who represented Perales in both indefinite suspension cases, for comment.
Reached by phone in December, Sifuentes first said he was busy and would have to talk later but has not responded to any successive attempts to reach him.
Second indefinite suspension
This time, Perales is accused of taking explicit photos off another woman’s phone and then using a series of spoofed numbers to text her the images as well as pictures of male genitalia. He’s also accused of contacting the same woman with a fake Facebook account.
While the patrolman admitted to using the fake Facebook account during a November 2021 arbitration hearing, he and his legal team have denied he was behind the explicit texts. They’ve suggested other people could have gotten access to the photos and argued the male genitalia in the photos is not Perales’.
Though Perales was indefinitely suspended over the allegations, police did not ultimately file a criminal case due to a lack of evidence.
What Internal Affairs found, though, was enough to convince Chief William McManus, who issues indefinite suspensions for the department.
“As I read through the file -- the further I read, the more I was convinced that it was Perales, despite lack of forensic evidence,” McManus testified at Perales’ November 2021 hearing.
Cruz acknowledges the new case sounds “circumstantial,” but based on her own experience with Perales, she believes the woman involved.
“Just thinking back at my history with him, him sending me inappropriate photos and text messages… very, very similar, and that’s what he does,” Cruz said.
“Just to make you feel scared if somehow you upset him, he will send messages and then threaten to send your photos to others.”
Past instances of harassment
During her testimony at Perales’ first arbitration, the city’s legal team questioned Cruz about previous threats Perales had made as an effort to establish her state of mind during the incident for which he was actually fired.
Cruz testified at the hearing her ex-husband had texted her “I will shoot you in the face if I see u with anyone else. **** fare [sic] warning ****.”
That text, which was shown on screen during her testimony, was immediately followed by one saying “Let me see your boobs.” Cruz testified Perales would “always” send texts asking her to show him parts of her body.
Cruz also described an occasion after they were divorced in which Perales had unlocked her phone while at her home, on her invitation, and seen text messages that angered him. Cruz said he threw her work bag over the fence and knocked over her trash, spreading the contents across her lawn and her neighbor’s.
However, Perales’ first indefinite suspension was based only on the threats to Cruz and her father stemming from the August 2017 encounter at the hardware store.
The arbitrator in the first case noted in his decision that McManus had not included any of the other accusations the city had brought up during the appeal. He also wrote that the city had accused Perales of incidents that occurred outside of the 180-day window for which the patrolman was eligible to be disciplined.
The city’s attorney also tried to ask Cruz during the first hearing whether Perales had threatened to “send an indecent photo of you or post it online,” but the arbitrator cut off that line of questioning.
Cruz provided KSAT with a screenshot of an email she had received in March 2017 from an account she says her ex-husband used. The email includes a screenshot of a message, apparently addressed to several people at Cruz’s work and contained a nude photo of Cruz.
The email states “F*** with my job and I will f*** with yours.”
Though the screenshot in the email Cruz received appears to show a sent message, she doesn’t believe Perales actually sent the photo, because she did not hear anything about it at work.
Though she doesn’t think Perales deserves his job back, Cruz worries about what will happen if his latest appeal fails.
Cruz said has nightmares of her ex-husband coming after her, based on threats she says he has made in the past.
During her arbitration testimony, she testified Perales had said he wasn’t afraid to get in a “shootout with his colleagues.”
She also provided KSAT with text messages from Perales, which she said were from April 2017, in which he told her “Just so u know, I’m gonna kill u. That statement there is enough to get me fired. I sent it…I’m gonna make it worth it. Leave now Janet….I’m coming back to put a bullet in your f****** head!!!”
In what Cruz says was the same text thread, Perales texted her a picture of his gun and badge, and told her “I warned u b****.”
Then, in a text Cruz said was from from May 2017, Perales sent a text message saying, in part, “I don’t care about my job. U have more to lose by hooking up and me punching him (or you) in the face than not. GN.”
After that text, Perales sent Cruz a news story about a woman whose husband had shot her in the face.
At the same time, she doesn’t think Perales actually will end up staying fired, “due to the - how the arbitration worked with SAPD.”
“I know he’s definitely going to get his position back, but it’s still frightening that he will continue to threaten me.”
Perales’ arbitration hearing wrapped up on Nov. 22, 2021.
Resources for victims
To contact the Family Violence Prevention Services, the crisis hotline is 210-733-8810. Find more resources for victims of domestic violence here.