The president of the San Antonio Police Officer Association called for his department’s chief to be placed on administrative leave after he released 12 illegal aliens being smuggled in an 18-wheeler in December. The union president also called for an investigation into what he called “obvious violations of the general manual.”
San Antonio Police Officers Association President Michael Helle sent a two-page letter to the city council this week where he requested an investigation into the behavior of Police Chief William McManus on December 23. Chief McManus admitted to reporters on January 5 that he released 12 alleged illegal aliens who were smuggled in the back of a tractor-trailer, Breitbart Texas reported. He did so without allowing the federal government to properly vet them for criminal or immigration records. He also made the decision to charge the driver under Texas human smuggling statutes, despite releasing the purported witnesses to the alleged crime.
In a letter to the San Antonio City Council obtained by Breitbart Texas, Helle said he believes Chief McManus may have “violated state or federal laws.” This is in addition to what he described as “obvious violations of the general manual.”
The union president told council members via his letter that his officers are supposed to “hold down the scene and call (federal agents) to investigate and take over. That was exactly what was happening until our Chief of Police, unrequested, showed up at the scene.”
Helle asked the council members to consider four questions:
- Why wouldn’t he allow the proper investigating agency to handle this case? Hindsight will prove that his decision may have completely forfeited any prosecution of the actor(s).
- Why were 12 of the subsequent actors involved (not victims being transported as noted in the definition of smuggling) released with properly identifying them?
- Why did the chief order that no one be properly identified? If not, who did?
- Why would (the chief) decide to prosecute for a lesser state offense in lieu of a more serious federal offense?
During a press conference on Friday reported by the San Antonio Express-News, Chief McManus attempted to explain his decisions.
“Once the folks got here to police headquarters we have no jurisdiction to hold them, to detain them, so they were released to Catholic Charities and what Catholic Charities did with them I don’t know,” the chief told reporters.
However, Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood told Breitbart Texas the chief did have the authority and jurisdiction to hold the migrants in an interview Friday. When asked if the chief had the authority to hold the migrants for up to 48 hours as material witnesses, LaHood “absolutely” agreed. “Material witnesses may be held to make sure they are properly identified.” He said they can also be held while police investigators question them as witnesses and obtain statements and other evidence.
The DA also confirmed that McManus’ decision to try the case under state jurisdiction is highly unusual.
“This is the first time since the new Texas human smuggling law (HB10, signed into law in 2015) went into effect that I have been asked to prosecute a case like this,” the DA explained. He said that the chief’s decision makes his job “much more challenging.”
Helle told city officials that no one requested that Chief McManus come to the crime scene. He also told city council that the chief “continues to describe these actors as victims but, by definition, are a party to the offense committed.”
On Friday, Helle told the Express-News, “This case should have been handled by Homeland. They’re the ones that should be handling human smuggling cases. Somehow McManus gets ahold of this, interjects himself into the situation, and basically starts calling Catholic Charities and all the people he can get ahold of to basically get rid of all these illegals before the feds get there.”
He said the chief told officers at headquarters not to check the witnesses names against federal and state databases to determine if they had previous criminal or immigration history. Helle explained this is a violation of the standard procedure.
“The guys that were not in the room could not believe it. If any one of our guys did this, any one of them, they’d probably be put on administrative duty and terminated from the Police Department,” Helle told the local newspaper. “They’re actually in (police headquarters) and the people from the Catholic churches, God bless them, they’re already making arrangements for people to escape.”
Immigration officials told Breitbart Texas on Friday they were confused by the chief’s actions and words.
Chief McManus told reporters on Friday that he made the decision because his officers were standing around waiting for ICE. “So because we had 12 people sitting on the corner, we had all of our officers queued up waiting to see how we were going to handle this, I made the call to handle it at the state level,” the chief told reporters on Friday.
However, ICE officials confirmed to Breitbart Texas that they had an agent on the scene and had a team of agents ready to deploy when the chief made his decision to take over the case.
Some are questioning if the chief’s decision to release the illegal aliens before immigration officers could take custody of them could be a violation of the State’s new anti-sanctuary city law (SB4).
Breitbart Texas reached out to the Office of the Texas Attorney General to see if this incident could be a violation of the State’s new anti-sanctuary city law (SB4). While officials said they could not comment on whether or not they were investigating a particular case, they did comment on the current status of SB4.
“Nearly all of SB4 is currently enforceable. The Office of the Attorney General is accepting citizen complaints against government entities that violate SB4 and will take appropriate action after investigation.” Director of Communications Marc Rylander told Breitbart Texas in a written statement. He said his office expects the case file by the end of the month and he will see what evidence is available.
Officials said that no complaints about the San Antonio incident have been received by the AG’s office.
The office accepts complaints from any citizen about possible violations of SB4 on its website. The website explains the procedures for filing the complaint and an online form for use by citizens wishing to file a complaint.
The San Antonio Police Department has not commented on Helle’s letter to the city council as of the time of this publication, the Express-News reported.
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas. He is a founding member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX, GAB, and Facebook.