SAPD chief responds to ‘mishandled evidence’ allegation made to a murder victim’s family by DA’s office

Arnulfo Cortez’s family was informed by the DA’s office that the murder case couldn’t go to trial and plea deal was best option

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Police Chief William McManus reacted Wednesday to an allegation of mishandled evidence made by the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.

On Tuesday, Kevin Perez was sentenced to 25 years in prison per a plea deal for the December 2020 murder of Arnulfo Cortez.

Cortez was driving home after leaving an Academy store off Loop 410 on the Northwest Side when he was shot and killed by Perez.

The Cortez family told KSAT 12 that the DA’s office informed them that the case couldn’t go to trial because of mishandled evidence by SAPD.

McManus disagreed with the allegation and said the detective and a patrol officer did their job.

“I reviewed this case thoroughly with my staff and the investigative work that our detective did on this,” McManus said. “I stand behind the work that the patrol officer did who responded to the scene. I don’t see any issue, evidentiary or otherwise, with the way we handled this case.”

The Cortez family clarified in a text message to KSAT on Wednesday that they were specifically told there was an illegal search on the weapon Perez was carrying.

“I don’t know what was said or what wasn’t said, but I do know that from an evidentiary standpoint, there was nothing wrong with our handling of that weapon,” McManus said.

KSAT 12 circled back with the DA’s office and asked for a specific answer as to why the Cortez Family was told that SAPD mishandled the case.

“It is difficult to comment on what the family was told,” Pete Gallegos, the DA’s Office Director of Communications, said.

Furthermore, District Attorney Joe Gonzales released the following statement Wednesday:

“The Bexar County District Attorney’s Office allows its prosecutors wide latitude to determine trial strategy for each individual case. Decisions on how to proceed are made on a case-by-case basis depending on facts, circumstances, and available evidence. Speaking specifically about The State of Texas vs Kevin Pérez, our office has no criticism of either the investigation or evidence obtained by the San Antonio Police Department. The relationship between our office and the SAPD on this case was collaborative, cooperative, and successful. Their work provided the basis for a substantial conviction and helped get a violent offender off of the street.”

McManus confirmed that he and Gonzales spoke Tuesday night and Wednesday about the case.

“I don’t want to get into a back and forth between me and the D.A. We’re trying to get past that, and I think we have. But I also don’t want this to be about who’s right and who’s wrong, because we’ve got the Cortez family who is grieving over this and feel that they they didn’t receive justice with that 25-year plea deal,” McManus said.

The chief agrees the 25-year sentence wasn’t enough punishment for the crime.

“I sympathize with the family. I know the detective has been in communication with them throughout this, and 25 years for a murder, it doesn’t seem quite, quite what the sentence should have been,” he said.

The Cortez family, who do not live in Bexar County, sent KSAT the following statement in reaction to the latest comments from both SAPD and the DA’s Office:

“Failed at every level. We were manipulated to think the plea deal was our best option. We are grieving, vulnerable, we don’t know the system, we weren’t supposed to be going through this. We trusted state appointed professionals to guide us. We hope someone is held accountable.”

Related:

‘Justice wasn’t served’: Family of murder victim upset after man gets 25-year plea deal


About the Authors:

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.