SAPD command staff covered up captain's on-duty sex scandal: investigator

Internal affairs sergeant handed over files, faces threat of felony charges

By Dillon Collier - Investigative Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - A longtime San Antonio Police Department internal affairs investigator claims the department's command staff took steps this summer to cover up an on-duty sex scandal involving a captain and a female officer.

SAPD Sergeant Jim Jones, who retired effective October 1, was the internal affairs investigator assigned to the case.

He handed over files related to his investigation and went on the record with the KSAT 12 Defenders this month, despite the possibility of being arrested by an agency he served for 35 years.

"I know that there are going to be people that aren't going to agree, besides the chief. They might not agree with how I did it or what I did and I respect that, I truly do. But in my heart, I felt that I had to do the right thing," said Jones.

In April, Jones was tasked with investigating whether Captain Alex De La Garza repeatedly had sex on duty and while on city property with a female subordinate.

De La Garza refused to answer questions from Jones about the relationship during an internal affairs interview on May 25.

However, the female officer had already begun cooperating with the investigation, detailing the sexual misconduct during two interviews in May with Jones and handing over hundreds of pages of emails that described the affair and her and De La Garza's initial efforts to conceal it from the department, according to records provided to the Defenders by Jones.

A third officer, identified as Lieutenant Brent Bell, was pulled into the investigation after Jones received evidence that he had served as an intermediary between De La Garza and the female officer so they could continue communicating even after a no-contact order had been given.

Jones' May 21 interrogation of Bell was at times contentious.

"You're Jim Jones, dude. I'll tell you that right now. You have a reputation. And I don't know how to do that. I'm sorry. I'm just going to be flat out with you. People are nervous when they come in here to talk to you," said Bell during the 52-minute interview, when pressed about why he was not immediately forthcoming with Jones about what he knew about the case.

De La Garza, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story, was allowed to retire on June 1 in lieu of being disciplined and separated from SAPD one week after his brief interview with Jones.

Records provided by the city of San Antonio show that it paid out De La Garza $156,029.07 in accrued leave.

"They're circling the wagons. They don't want this to get out to the public."

Hours after meeting with De La Garza, Jones said he received a telephone call while off duty from Internal Affairs Commander Timothy Vaughan.

"Captain Vaughan told me this case was too damaging to the department, and that they were thinking of not issuing discipline," said Jones, who added that Vaughan said they were circling the wagons and trying to put the case to bed so that it would not get out to the public.

Vaughan told Jones he had just left an hours-long meeting that included Chief William McManus' chief of staff, Deputy Chief Robert Blanton and other department officials, according to Jones.

"I said, 'Oh, captain, I don't think that's a smart decision,'" said Jones, recalling the phone conversation.

Jones said he again implored Vaughan during an in-person conversation at work days later to convince the command staff to walk away from the plan.

"The public expects and demands transparency. And the chief touts a partnership with the community. But I don't know how you can espouse truth or trust and transparency with the community one day, and then perpetuate a cover-up the next," said Jones.

Jones said he completed the investigation and was present as the case went before the city's Complaint and Administrative Review Board in mid-June.

Jones recalled the board recommending proposed indefinite suspensions for De La Garza and the female officer and a suspension for Bell as well.

Records provided by Jones show that the female officer on July 25 received verbal counseling for violating department rules related to the waste or conversion of city property and on-duty activities.

An allegation of prohibited sexual misconduct was overturned and ruled inconclusive, according to an interoffice memo signed by McManus and provided to the Defenders by Jones.

A second interoffice memo from July 23 shows that Bell's punishment was reduced to a written counseling.

Since none of the officers received suspensions of one day or longer, the department has so far been able to withhold records related to the investigation.

Requests from the Defenders for those records were forwarded by city officials in August and September to the state attorney general's office for a ruling.

McManus did not respond to four requests from the Defenders to be interviewed for this story.

On October 10, KSAT received a letter from San Antonio City Attorney Andy Segovia claiming the actions of Jones amounted to a felony and that the city would hold KSAT and its parent company liable if the station proceeded with a story based on information provided by Jones.

KSAT, through an attorney, responded to the city that the section of the Texas Penal Code referenced by Segovia in his letter does not apply to the media and that the media's rights to gather and report on information are protected by the First Amendment. 

Late Friday, McManus, through the city attorney's office, released the following statement:

The illegally released recordings are a grossly incomplete picture of the disciplinary process and the specifics of this case. I made a decision based on the full set of facts. Keeping it out of the public view was not the basis for my decision. I cannot disclose those facts because they are protected under state law. A news story suggesting otherwise based on incomplete facts, illegally released is irresponsible and not fair to the victim in this case.

"Am I worried? Sure. Nobody wants to get arrested," said Jones.

"Their knee jerk reaction will be to either shut me up or retaliate against me in some way. I've already contacted a criminal attorney. I have a civil attorney in mind already. I'm prepared. I've already told my wife what to do when the officers come to either execute a search warrant or an arrest warrant," said Jones.

Jones said he made the decision to retire now instead of sometime next year after the department's handling of the case led to "countless sleepless nights."

 

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