On Thursday, according to Sheriff Javier Salazar, BCSO deputies saw a vehicle make several hazardous traffic violations, though he doesn’t say what those violations were. Deputies began to pursue the two men in the truck. The driver fled going the wrong way on IH 35, eventually hitting another car in a head-on collision. The two men in the truck, Mario Mendoza and David Eifert, were taken into custody. Both men had non-violent felony and misdemeanor warrants.
SAPD’s policy is not to engage in a pursuit for traffic offenses or non-violent felonies. The reason for that is because of the high possibility of injuries or death when engaging in a pursuit. According to SAPD Chief William McManus, he had previously spoken to Sheriff Salazar about the dangers of the more lenient policy that the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office has regarding pursuits. To make matters worse, the deputies had a camera crew from the TV program, COPS, who were filming the events. Chief McManus heavily insinuates that the poor decision to pursue by the deputies was because they were showing off for the cameras.
I do understand Chief McManus’ anger. One of his men, Officer Ralph Delgado, may never be able to be a police officer again. Officer Delgado is an 11 year veteran with SAPD. The injuries to his leg are so severe that he will need multiple surgeries with the final outcome being unknown. I understand that more officers are killed working traffic than anything else. I am fully aware that innocent citizens could have been injured or killed because of a chase due to a traffic violation. And I feel he is probably right that the deputies were making decisions based on having a film crew in their car.
What I don’t feel is fair is to lay the blame for the injuries sustained by Officer Delgado, on the BCSO. The chase had finished. The officers were working the crash scene. Officer Delgado was putting out flairs when a vehicle tried to go around Delgado’s patrol car, struck it, pinning Officer Delgado between the car and the median. To claim that is the fault of the BCSO because the crash was the result of a poor decision is pushing responsibility beyond feasible limits.
I completely agree that the Sheriff’s Office should tighten its chase policies but as Chief McManus knows, working traffic is extremely dangerous. Officers who are directing traffic are hit by people not paying attention all the time. That’s always been the case and cell phones have only made it worse. it doesn’t stop the need for officers to work traffic and I doubt Chief McManus would say his officers will no longer work traffic because it’s too dangerous.
All my readers know that we, here at this website, do not have a positive opinion of Sheriff Javier Salazar and we do think he needs to work on his chase policy but, in this case, we don’t feel the injuries caused to Officer Delgado were the fault of the BCSO. Everything up to the point where the pursuit ended, yes, BCSO’s fault. But officers walking around, investigating a crash scene then some unrelated vehicle comes on the scene and injures someone, no.
You can go to the KSAT 12 article to watch Chief McManus speak.