Former SAPD officer with history of road rage cleared in DWI case

Dezi Rios, 40, still faces charge of failure to provide information stemming from July 2021 crash

Dezi Rios (BCSO/KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – A former San Antonio police officer who resigned months after being arrested in connection with a 2021 hit-and-run case no longer faces a charge of driving while intoxicated, Bexar County court records show.

A misdemeanor DWI charge against Dezi Rios, 40, was dismissed last week, the same day a motion to suppress evidence was granted in his case.

Rios, who resigned from SAPD in November 2021, was charged with DWI and failure to stop and provide information that July after SAPD investigators said he crashed into another driver’s vehicle stopped at a red light at the intersection of O’Connor and Stahl Roads and fled the scene.

After the other driver pursued Rios, the ex-cop crashed his vehicle into a curb under the overpass at Bulverde Road and Loop 1604 and the two men were involved in a physical altercation, SAPD officials previously said.

The other driver, Ara Halibian, told KSAT days after the incident 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.

Dezi Rios (left) and Ara Halibian (center) were involved in a crash turned physical altercation in July 2021. (KSAT)

At the time, the crash was at least the third known road rage incident involving Rios since August 2017.

An attorney representing Rios told KSAT the physical altercation took place after the other driver pulled a gun on Rios and that attorney Gary Hillier was able to get the motion to suppress evidence granted after proving in court that Rio was not stopped at any point for DWI.

A Bexar County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman released the following statement on the dismissal Thursday:

Prosecutors, defense counsel, judges, and juries all play a role in our justice system. On May 24, 2023, a judge granted the defense counsel’s request to exclude certain evidence that prosecutors sought to use in the DWI case against Dezi James Rios. Our office must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant has committed the crime of which he or she is accused. In this instance, our inability to use the excluded evidence makes it virtually impossible to meet that legal burden. As a result, the case has been dismissed. Our system of justice works better than that of any other nation. We believe in it and work to uphold justice every day. We remain committed to working diligently with our partners in law enforcement to hold people accountable for their actions and to make Bexar County a better and safer place to live, work, and raise a family.

Rios’ attorneys were previously able to prevent his driver’s license from being suspended after an administrative judge determined there was not sufficient evidence to investigate Rios for possible DWI.

Rios remains free on bond on the failure to provide info charge, court records show.

Shootout outside strip club

Rios was shot six times during a shootout outside All-Stars Gentlemen’s Club in May 2018, following a rolling altercation with another 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.

‘He’s lucky he didn’t get smoked.’

In August 2017, Rios was involved in yet another unrelated driving encounter near downtown.

A man was driving in the outside lane of U.S. Highway 281 South when Rios, in a rental vehicle, attempted to merge into his lane, according to an SAPD incident report.

While Rios told investigators the other driver sped up to block him from merging, the man told KSAT that Rios was the aggressor, repeatedly swerving his vehicle and nearly hitting the front bumper of his vehicle.

“I could tell in a way he was mocking me or laughing about it. Kind of a smug sort of demeanor to him,” the man previously told KSAT.

Rios told investigators that the other driver lifted up a firearm and pointed it at him, causing Rios to fear for his safety. Rios then called 911 and followed the man until on-duty officers pulled over the man on the on-ramp from Interstate 37 South to Interstate 10 West.

Body-worn camera footage from officers who responded to the 2017 scene showed Rios repeatedly clinching his fists.

Rios told the officers that he reached for his department-issued service pistol in his passenger seat, but then realized it was in the back area of his 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 Author:

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.