The city of Temple seeks to withhold videos related to the death of a man wanted on a misdemeanor theft warrant who was struck and killed by a vehicle on Interstate 35 as he fled from Temple Police officers.
In response to a Telegram open records request into the death of Anthony Turner Jr., Deputy City Attorney Charla Thomas on Thursday asked for an opinion from the Texas Attorney General’s office regarding the requested police dash and body cam videos. She wrote that the city requested to withhold the videos under Texas Government Code 552.108(a)(1) because “the release of that information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of a crime.”
“The criminal matters documented in the attached report are pending and have not been resolved,” Thomas wrote to Justin Gordon, chief of the Open Records Division of the AG’s office. “Release of the witness identities may subject those witnesses to intimidation or harassment or harm the prospect of their future cooperation in the ongoing investigation.”
The city said earlier this month that the Texas Rangers were investigating the incident, but did not mention a criminal investigation into the matter. His death does not meet the definition of an in-custody death under state law, city officials said.
The Temple Police Department has not identified any of the law enforcement officers involved in the incident despite an open records request for that information.
However, the deputy city attorney did name former Temple Police Cpl. Chad Tarvestad in a response to the Telegram’s open records request.
“On June 16, 2022, the city received the attached request asking for various personnel records associated with Chad Tarvestad,” Thomas wrote in a separate letter Friday to the attorney general’s office.
Tarvestad and other officers were cleared of any wrongdoing in the death of a Stephen Gayle, an intellectually disabled man with sickle-cell anemia who died in 2017 when Temple Police officers tried to take him into custody in East Temple, the Telegram previously reported. Gayle’s death was ruled accidental and he had phencyclidine (PCP) in his system.
A bystander, Wanda Nichols, pastor of The Garden of Gethsemane International Church Ministries, told the Telegram that the officers acted inappropriately during the incident by kneeling and punching Gayle in the face.
Tarvestad retired from the Temple department earlier this year and now works for the Bell County Sheriff’s Department, Temple spokeswoman Nohely Mackowiak said Friday.
Tarvestad, a deputy, started with the Sheriff’s Department on March 25, officials said.
City information delay
The city took more than eight hours to notify the public about the death of Turner, 19, who was wanted on a misdemeanor theft charge. His death on I-35 hampered travel through the area for hours as authorities investigated.
City spokeswoman Kiara Nowlin said delays in releasing public information occurred during the investigation.
Because the Texas Department of Public Safety “is in charge of the accident investigation,” she said, “the Temple Police Department needed to first contact DPS to request authorization to respond to the inquiry, to prevent interfering with the investigation or the department conducting the investigation. Once the Temple Police Department received authorization, the Police Department PIO, Nohely Mackowiak, responded to the inquiry.”
Temple Police Chief Shawn Reynolds previously said the Temple Police Department has a goal to be transparent.
“One of my goals when I arrived in Temple, Texas, was to be open and transparent with the public about our work in the Police Department,” Reynolds said in a statement. “We will maintain communication and dialogue around this incident as the investigation continues.”
Reynolds requested the help of the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers to investigate the incident.
“It should also be remembered that the purpose of these investigations is to fact-find and determine what occurred during this incident,” Reynolds said in another statement.
Reynolds has not responded to an email with Telegram’s questions nor did he return an editor’s phone call since the June 15 incident.
Turner had an arrest warrant issued on June 10 for a Class A misdemeanor theft of property between $750 and $2,500, Bell County court records showed.
Turner had three other criminal charges from last year. On Jan. 3, 2021, Turner was charged with Class A misdemeanor theft of property between $750 and $2,500, a Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana less than two ounces, and an unauthorized use of a vehicle charge, a state felony charge.
Turner was sentenced to 12 months in prison for the unauthorized use of a vehicle charge. He was given credit for 431 days he spent in the Bell County Jail, records show.
At 7:48 a.m. June 15, a Temple police officer was dispatched to the 1200 block of Allegiance Bend in reference to a suspicious person.
The officer talked to the complainant and Turner at 8:01 a.m. The officer told Turner that “he was not supposed to be at that location until after 4 p.m., and the officer told him to leave,” the city said. Turner left the residence. The officer learned of a misdemeanor theft warrant upon returning to the police vehicle.
A question on why he was not supposed to be at the location until after 4 p.m. has not been answered by the city.
At 8:02 a.m., the officer told Turner, who had walked several houses away, that he had an arrest warrant and he “was being detained” as the officer grabbed his right arm.
Turner insisted that he didn’t have a warrant and “began to pull away.”
The officer told Turner to not resist arrest. Turner pulled his arm out of the officer’s grasp and fled, jumping over a fence. The officer did not pursue.
“Shortly after the perimeter was set up,” the city said, with K-9 officers starting a track.
At 8:52 a.m., a Temple police lieutenant saw a Bell County Sheriff’s Department vehicle with emergency lights on stopped in the middle of General Bruce Drive and then saw Turn run across the road toward the interstate.
Three minutes later, the lieutenant made contact with Turner from the Nugent Avenue overpass and “told him to get off of the interstate,” the city said. The lieutenant instructed police units to slow down all interstate traffic and block northbound traffic, the city said.
At 8:56 a.m., a Temple officer called to Turner, telling him “to come over and get some water,” the city said. Turner reportedly refused and continued running north.
Two minutes later, Turner was seen on the top of the inside retaining wall on the interstate.
“A sergeant paralleled him with his vehicle and, over the PA system, advised him to get off the interstate,” the city said.
Turner was seen running in traffic, “with vehicles passing him on his left and right side,” the city said. “Officers advised (Turner) to get back to the center wall so he did not get hit by a vehicle.”
At 8:58 a.m., an officer was near Turner on the interstate.
“The subject ran northbound near the southbound retaining wall, and the officer directed (but did not discharge) their Taser at the subject,” the city release said. Turner “started moving westward, entering the southbound lanes of traffic, where (he) was struck by a vehicle.”
“The officer called for Emergency Medical Services and started performing CPR on the subject.”
No response was given to a request for the Temple Police use of taser policy.
In her letter, Thomas said the city requests a ruling from the attorney general’s office whether it is required to release the videos.
“The information contained in the body worn camera video recording is not and cannot be used in a criminal prosecution because the prospective defendant is deceased, therefore the recording held by the police department is not subject to the requirements of Section 552.021, Government Code,” Thomas wrote. “The city asserts that the remaining responsive body worn camera video is confidential by statute and must be withheld.”
The city still has not released videos related to the officer-involved shooting of Michael Dean on Dec. 2, 2019, despite many public calls to do so over the years.
Carmen DeCruz, a former Temple police officer, is charged with manslaughter in the case. Dean, 28, was shot and killed by DeCruz during a traffic stop near Southeast HK Dodgen Loop and Little River Road, Temple Police reported. DeCruz resigned from the police department before his arrest. His criminal trial is set for the fall.