Rangers investigate Victoria County constable

Jon Wilcox By Jon Wilcox

Nov. 10, 2017 at 9:36 p.m.
Updated Nov. 11, 2017 at 6 a.m.

Jesse Garza

Jesse Garza   contributed photo for The Victoria Advocate

Victoria County Constable Precinct 1 Jesse Garza is under investigation by the Texas Rangers.

"When the Texas Rangers investigate, they investigate criminal offenses," said Sgt. Ruben San Miguel, Department of Public Safety spokesman.

A pickup used by Garza in his capacity as constable remained locked behind a gate at DPS' Victoria office Friday night. Rangers seized the pickup about a week ago to examine it for evidence, San Miguel said.

Garza did not answer phone calls or return messages requesting comment Friday.

District Judge Eli Garza, who is not related to the constable, sealed search warrant affidavits detailing the Rangers' probable cause for seizing and searching Garza's property, said District Clerk Cathy Stuart.

The Rangers began their investigation into Jesse Garza after District Attorney Stephen Tyler requested their help in a letter.

Tyler said he wrote the letter after receiving a complaint in late September from a Victoria County resident alleging official oppression by Garza. That complaint is the first actionable complaint his office has received in regard to the constable, he said.

Ranger John Lingle will attempt to determine whether Garza used his office and power to coerce that Victoria County resident during the summer of 2016.

Rangers, San Miguel said, are often called to investigate when elected officials are accused of crimes.

According to the Texas Penal Code, a public official commits official oppression by subjecting a person to unlawful arrest, detention or seizure; intentionally denying a person's rights; or committing sexual harassment.

According to a Victoria County Sheriff's Office termination letter, Garza was fired from his position as a patrol deputy in March 2013 for allegedly violating a section of the Texas Penal Code pertaining to the distribution of obscene material.

The constable has no criminal history in Victoria County.

Three years after his firing, Garza was elected constable, narrowly beating incumbent constable Richard Williams in a runoff election by five votes.

Tyler refused to clarify which element of official oppression best described allegations against the constable.

Although the deadly mass shooting in Sutherland Springs has delayed the investigation, Tyler said he expects it to conclude within one or two weeks.

"We will see what the Rangers develop," he said.

Despite that assessment, San Miguel estimated the investigation was still in its early stages.

"The next step is to present evidence to a grand jury," San Miguel said.



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