Zack Quaintance, Brownsville (Texas) Monitor, August 31, 2007
Alton Police Chief Jose Luis Vela was suspended Thursday after authorities charged the 10-year veteran with two counts of sexual assault against male employees.
Investigators have accused Vela of performing oral sex on a male employee after the man passed out drunk at a party about a year ago, court documents show. Vela also faces charges of violating a different male employee with an object while that man was passed out at a party in July, said Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño.
Both parties allegedly happened at the chief’s home on the 4300 block of La Homa Road in Mission.
Treviño withheld the alleged victims’ names, ages and positions within the department, saying he did not want to reveal their identities. He would not specify whether the victims worked as officers or dispatchers for the 18-employee department.
The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office plans to interview every employee of Alton’s police and fire departments. Treviño said the investigation will continue as long as necessary and future arrests are possible.
City Hall shocked by charges
Meanwhile, further scandal may already be brewing for the Police Department.
On the sheriff’s recommendation, Arcaute has ordered an investigation into whether Vela or other employees tampered with evidence.
Treviño said deputies had reason to believe booze and drug paraphernalia had been removed from the evidence locker and used at the alleged parties where the sexual assaults are said to have happened.
He would not rule out the possibility of future arrests.
‘Bizarre and off track’
The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office began investigating the sexual assault allegations last week.
A friend of one of the victims told deputies about the alleged assault from last year.
The victim himself hesitated to report it because of his employment situation and feelings of embarrassment, Treviño said.
Sheriff’s deputies began interviewing department employees and found another man who also said Vela had assaulted him.
Investigators took their findings to a judge, who signed a warrant for Vela’s arrest and ordered a search of his home and office.
If convicted of the charges, Vela will no longer be allowed to work as a peace officer in Texas.
Treviño called the case “bizarre and off track.”
“This is the first time I’ve ever heard of a chief of a police arrested for sexually assaulting his employees,” the sheriff said.