The differences in how two local law enforcement agencies handled separate officer-involved shootings are diverse.
One Bell County police department — the Killeen Police Department — handled an officer-involved shooting that occurred Sunday by releasing a narrative on the incident involving Jason Wayne Brooks in less than 24 hours.
Meanwhile, the Temple Police Department has released little information in the six weeks after an officer-involved shooting ended in an unarmed man’s death on Dec. 2, 2019.
No narrative has been given for the Temple shooting in which 28-year-old Michael Dean died after being shot in the head during a traffic stop by Officer Carmen DeCruz.
The Texas Rangers maintain the Temple investigation is “nearing its end” and “information will be pushed out very soon,” DPS Sgt. Bryan Washko told the Telegram on Monday.
The Bell County District Attorney’s office is now reviewing material submitted to it by the Texas Rangers, District Attorney Henry Garza said Monday. Once everything has been evaluated, his office will “take an appropriate course of action.”
Obvious differences in the two separate investigations are that no one was injured in the Killeen officer-involved shooting incident, the Texas Rangers is the lead agency in the Temple shooting and Dean was black and Brooks is white.
In Killeen, two investigations will occur. The first will be by the Criminal Investigation Division and the second will be conducted by Internal Affairs.
The Killeen Police officer was put on paid administrative leave until the investigations are completed.
Brooks, 42, of Killeen, did not have a weapon during that incident, Killeen Police spokeswoman Ofelia Miramontez said Tuesday. Brooke had an active parole warrant for parole violation and was charged with evading arrest or detention and possession of drug paraphernalia. Brooks remained in the Bell County Jail on Thursday.
Jose Rosada, a probationary Killeen Police officer, was identified Tuesday as the officer involved in the shooting. Rosada was hired in 2018 and will stay on administrative leave until the two investigations are finished, Miramontez said.
Temple Police didn’t release the name of Officer Carmen DeCruz, who fired the fatal shot, until a week after Dean was killed. DeCruz remains on administrative leave.
Killeen, Temple policies
Killeen has no set policy for releasing information. Each case is handled on a case-by-case incident.
“In striving for transparency, the integrity of the investigation is a consideration, especially in the early stages of the investigation,” Miramontez said. She added that each set of circumstances is different and warrants individual consideration.
Killeen’s early narrative said a call for criminal trespass at the Holiday Terrace Motor Hotel, 1708 E. Veterans Memorial Blvd., came in at about 11:14 a.m. The suspect left on foot, and officers found him on Terrace Drive. The officer gave several commands to the suspect and then fired his gun, the report said. No one was injured.
Regarding the Temple case, there is no timeline for the Rangers to release information, Washko said Wednesday.
“However, I know this has been a lengthy investigation. It is nearing completion, and the DA will have the full investigation and all details within it. Many questions from the media as well as Dean’s family will be able to be finally answered. Thank you for your patience,” Washko said.
Temple Police spokesman Cody Weems provided that department’s policy.
“The timeline for releasing a record related to an officer-involved shooting is typically determined by the course of a related criminal investigation and prosecution,” Weems said. “If there is a related criminal case, either against a subject or the officer, all records including the officer’s narrative will be withheld under the exception to the Texas Public Information Act that restricts records related to the detection, investigation or prosecution of a criminal case.”
Release of information
The Dean case isn’t the first one in which Temple PD hasn’t provided information in a timely manner.
When Stephen Gayle died in 2017 while he was in Temple Police custody, the Telegram on June 11, 2018, asked questions about the status of the investigation and the names of the officers involved in the struggle with Gayle.
The Telegram filed an open records request the following day with the city of Temple.
Finally, on Dec. 13, 2019, city of Temple spokeswoman Laurie Simmons said the Gayle case didn’t qualify as an officer-involved incident because Gayle died because of his medical condition and the narcotics he had in his system.
The names of the involved officers were provided Dec. 19 and included Bryan Pedigo, Matthew Wittman, Chad Tarvestad, Monica Vega-Broadstreet and Korrey Perrow. They are all still Temple Police officers, Weems said. Pedigo was recognized this week for helping to stop a potential suicide by a teenage girl.
When asked why the findings in the Gayle death weren’t previously released, Simmons said the information the city has is available after it is requested. When cases are investigated by outside agencies, the results are sent to the grand jury.
Timothy Wayne Owen, 49, was shot and killed June 9, 2018, and his name was known three days later after it was provided by Telegram sources — not by Temple Police.
Owen was shot and killed during a gunfire exchange with Temple Police officers at the Glen Apartments, and a brief narrative was provided June 12 by Temple Police.
The case involving the Owen’s officer-involved shooting was presented to the grand jury by the Texas Rangers on Sept. 25, 2019, and it was ruled a justifiable homicide. Involved in that shooting were Sgt. Tom Richesin and Officer Blaise Dillenburg, Weems said.
Tracy Everbach, Ph.D, who teaches at the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas in Denton, said release of information is needed on a timely basis.
“Six weeks is a long amount of time for these types of cases,” Everbach said Wednesday. “That seems an excessive amount of time to withhold information, and it can make the public feel like it’s a cover-up.”
She stressed that when a law enforcement agency isn’t forthcoming with information it makes people more suspicious and creates more anxiety.
“Given the history of shootings of unarmed black men in the United States, to withhold information will foster more distrust with people because there have been so many of these high-profile cases across the country,” Everbach said. “We live in a democracy and are supposed to be able to hold public officials accountable.”
Everbach had advice for the officials and agencies investigating Dean’s shooting.
“The more open and forthcoming you are, the more trust you are going to get from the public,” she said. “Unless there is some kind of compelling reason to withhold information, the family and public deserve to know this information.”
The family and public should be informed of the facts of a police shooting “as soon as practical,” Stephen Nasta, a former commander with the New York City Police Department, told The Associated Press.
Without impeding an investigation, light should shine on a situation and people should be told as much as possible, Nasta said. His opinion was that two weeks was a long time to go without giving more information about a case.