A Victoria County constable has been ordered to return his county-issued pickup after his peace officer’s license was suspended by the state.
“Please return your county-issued patrol vehicle and keys to the courthouse,” stated a letter from County Judge Ben Zeller to Precinct 1 Constable Jesse Garza.
That suspension was issued Tuesday by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement after it was notified of indictments against Garza.
“A licensee arrested or indicted for such an offense constitutes an immediate peril to the public health, safety and welfare,” a TCOLE letter stated.
Garza, who serves Bloomington, Placedo and other south Victoria County communities, is charged with felony sexual assault and misdemeanor official oppression. He faces between two and 20 years in prison with a $10,000 fine.
Garza and his attorney, Dexter Eaves, a former Victoria County district attorney, declined to comment.
Tim Poynter, an assistant district attorney for DeWitt, Goliad and Refugio counties, said he notified TCOLE after Garza’s December arrest and indictments. Those indictments came after a Texas Rangers investigation that began after a woman complained Garza had sexually assaulted her during a 2017 ride-along in his county-issued pickup.
Poynter, was recently appointed as special prosecutor for the case after District Attorney Constance Filley Johnson recused herself from the case.
As of Thursday evening, Garza had yet to return the truck but was expected to Friday, Zeller said.
Without an active TCOLE peace officer’s license, Garza is unable to perform law enforcement duties related to his office. The indictments have also resulted in the suspension of his jailer’s license.
Because he is an elected official, Garza can only be removed from office by a request from a county resident on the basis of a criminal conviction, mental incompetency or intoxication, according to Texas law.
In the meantime, Garza will continue to receive an annual salary of $40,667.
If convicted, he would no longer be paid.
“Commissioners court continues to operate under the guidance of our legal counsel as to what, if any, legal options we may have available,” Zeller said.