Christine Dean said she found out Monday before anyone else did that Temple Police Officer Carmen DeCruz was charged with manslaughter in her son Michael’s death.
She wasn’t told her son Michael was dead until the early hours of Dec. 3. Dean was shot at about 8:15 p.m. on Dec. 2 and was pronounced dead by 8:26 p.m.
His mother was told at 1:30 a.m. her son was shot — more than five hours later, she said.
DeCruz’s identity as the officer involved in the shooting wasn’t released by Temple Police until a week later.
“At least this is a step that has been taken, but I’m not sure how satisfied I am with the charge,” Christine Dean said.
The family still has no information on what happened, she said.
“I’m not disappointed in my community at all, though” Christine Dean said.
Christine didn’t want to talk about the new developments in the case, she said.
“I’m going to let due process take place and put it in God’s hands. God is who has been holding us this whole time.”
Michael was almost 4 years old when the Deans adopted him and his four siblings. His mother described him as a “good-hearted person” who would do anything for anyone and gave God credit for everything.
Lee Merritt, the Dean family’s attorney, said the family doesn’t agree with the charge.
“The Dean family finds this charge wholly inappropriate given the evidence available in the case. Dean was shot in his temple through a closed door seconds after being pulled over for a minor traffic violation,” Merritt said. “It is clear that DeCruz intended to cause seriously bodily harm when he shot Michael Dean in the face without justification. We are demanding that the appropriate charges be pursued.”
Interim chief’s response
Interim Police Chief Jim Tobin said during a Monday evening news conference in the lobby of the Temple Police Department, “DeCruz will remain on paid leave until he is indicted, at which time he will be placed on unpaid leave. His pay status is required by law and Temple PD does not have discretion to change this.
“I would like to give my condolences and regrets to the Dean family. I appreciate their patience during this investigation,” Tobin said. “This has been a difficult time for the Dean family and the community. I assured the Dean family from the start that there would be an independent investigation by the Texas Rangers without any influence by our agency, and that has occurred.”
An internal investigation by the Temple Police Department is separate from the criminal investigation. The internal investigation focuses on violations of departmental policy and procedures, as well as Civil Service rules and regulations.
“This investigation is expected to be complete by the end of February,” Tobin said.
An after-action review of the department’s response to this situation also was requested by Tobin.
“After-action reviews are commonly performed after critical incidents,” Tobin said. “It is the department’s goal to perform at a high standard, and to continue to improve our training, safety and service to the community.”
Tobin previously told the Telegram in an email the word “altercation” was placed in a Dec. 30 report to the Texas Attorney General’s office as part of the narrative. He said the Texas Rangers agreed with the descriptive word.
“This was information known at that time, which is subject to change based on the facts of the investigation,” Tobin said.
“When conducting an investigation, unless it is a public safety concern or we are needing assistance in identifying or locating a suspect, specific details are not released until the conclusion of the investigation,” he added.
Temple officials comment
Members of the Temple City Council commented about DeCruz being charged in the case.
“The entire circumstances are tragic. But it looks to me as if the system, even though we had some issues with the communications portion of it, worked the way it was intended to,” City Council member Wendell Williams told the Telegram. “An independent investigations agency investigated it and gave their report to the district attorney who charged the officer. That way nobody had their fingers on the scale of justice. It was done totally above board, and the results are out.”
Three departmental policies may have been violated by DeCruz, City Manager Brynn Myers said Monday.
“It’s a time for healing,” Myers said.
Councilwoman Jessica Walker said that everyone in the city is being tested by these events, including Tobin, who was planning on retiring before becoming the interim police chief.
“It was tragic all the way around,” Councilwoman Susan Long said. “There has to be an ending. I hope this brings the family some solace, at least they have some answers.”
Mayor pro tem Judy Morales said she hopes that this event helps the city move forward on becoming more transparent in the future and communicating better.
“In the end, all we want is justice,” Morales said. “We need to be better prepared, and I hope this has opened the door for us to look at all the different aspects of what needs to be looked at so that we will be more transparent and quicker to respond to (similar incidents).”
Temple Mayor Tim Davis, who was out of state Monday, said he hopes that with the arrest of DeCruz the city and the family can begin to heal.
“I hope that this is the beginning of the city of Temple and the Dean family beginning to heal,” Davis said. “Everyone knows this was a tragic event, it was tragic for both the Dean family and the DeCruz family. My hope is that this will begin to bring closure to this sad situation for the city of Temple and the Dean family. I am ready to move on.”