Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Coverup in Amarillo? Cops' burglary/search oddly unprosecuted

What a bizarre story! A former Amarillo PD officer was indicted last week on evidence tampering charges. Here's the nut: Officer Saulo Bravo and his partner, who has not been publicly named, without telling their supervisor, much less securing a warrant, drove an unmarked car to a presumed suspect's home at 2:30 in the morning on Aug. 24 and, out of uniform, broke in like a couple of two-bit second-story men and began searching. The homeowner awoke and heard them but they only announced themselves as police officers when he began shooting at them with a pistol.

Later that day, Bravo "allegedly concealed an affidavit that was to be used as evidence in a pending investigation" and also "allegedly destroyed a supplement to a police report and changed the report," reported the Globe-News. So the indictment is over covering up records related to the burglary, not the burglary itself.

Inexplicably, reported the paper, "Police have not said whether Bravo’s partner was disciplined over the incident." However, since under the civil service code there'd be a public record if he'd received discipline that involved a suspension, we know that means any discipline did not rise to the level of losing pay over it. Certainly the partner isn't being prosecuted for the B&E; nor is Bravo, for that matter. As is so often the case in public life, it's not the bad act but the coverup that triggers a response.

Read the Globe-News account. Let me know in the comments whether you think of this as a Fourth Amendment violation, primarily a records-tampering issue, or is this mainly a burglary/crime?

If Amarillo PD won't even name both officers involved and nobody is being prosecuted for the actual break-in, this becomes a matter the department can't be trusted to handle internally.  Maybe it's time for the Texas Rangers or the Justice Department to step in to determine whether Bravo and his partner should be prosecuted for more than just the paper-work faux pas listed in the indictment. It's not just that Bravo tampered with evidence to cover up what he'd done, it's what he'd done! And got caught! If anyone but cops broke into your home and got caught red-handed, they'd catch a burglary charge. Bravo's partner didn't even get a one-day suspension.

As an aside, this has implications for the Michael Morton Act. Let's say Bravo's partner is still working as a police officer generating evidence for prosecutors to use in criminal cases. Will prosecutors reveal his role in the burglary to defense counsel as impeachment evidence? If he's anonymous so far, that implies they don't intend to make that information public. Such diffidence toward misconduct could be more easily swept under the rug before the Michael Morton Act, which raises questions about secret personnel files in civil service cities that haven't been widely considered.

Grits' prediction: They plead Bravo's case down to a Class A misdemeanor charge, he gets probation and loses his badge. Also, the bit about the partner not receiving public discipline stinks to high heaven. If this case doesn't draw down outside oversight, the takeaway can only be that effectively there isn't any. The DA should seek recusal and ask for a special prosecutor and get these cases out of the hands of local politicos.


Anonymous said...

The very existence of secret Civil Service files are in conflict with 39.14 as amended by Morton.

Perhaps more importantly, the files are also in conflict with the spirit of Brady unless you are fool enough to believe that complaints or investigations are never exculpatory if they do not result in formal discipline of the officer.

The argument is that if we make such files discoverable that will just lead to the stuff never being put on file and then that would lead to bad police. The problem with that Sheriff is an elected position and Chief might as well be and if that isn't enough incentive for the brass to rid themselves of bad cops then it is hard to imagine that the prospect of discovery would change departmental behavior.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Also, 8:36, most of Texas' 2,600+ law enforcement agencies, including Dallas and El Paso, operate with disciplinary files covered under the Public Information Act. You can look at those agencies as natural "controls" in a thought experiment re: what happens if disciplinary files become public? Answer: Journalism improves, but the sky doesn't fall.

rodsmith said...

of curse once I caught you in my home in the middle of the night. Nothing you say could keep me from dropping you.

sorry the only way I am not going to consider you a threat is when your bleeding on the floor

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but the police officer's never actually broke into the home. They WERE sneaking around in the unfenced backyard. The homeowner was never asleep, but actually about to go to bed when he SAW the officers sneaking around from his VIDEO CAMERAs. And shot from the back door. There are two different stories reported by the same news source that keeps making vague references in WHAT actually went down. There are many stink holes in all of it though. I agree, i do not like the fact that the unnamed partner is not being publicized as well. I think that stinks too. Honestly, I have no concrete knowledge of how Police protocols work. So I would think once a police turns his report in, it would be done electronically. And there would be hierarchy ladders and clearances one would have to go through to be able to get back to an old police report to charge and tamper with. Now, as for the withheld Affidavit….. I cant explain that. As for your prediction, you’re probably right, im sure he’ll be given a plea deal down to a misdemeanor A. Dell Kilgore is the homeowner name reported in the news.

Anonymous said...

Also, Amarillo is split down the middle by two counties. Potter and Randall. Technically the high grand jury of RANDALL should have been taking the case. NOT POTTER county. I've wondered why Potter was given the case. maybe thats part of politics i dont understand??

Gritsforbreakfast said...

What's your source, 9:02? The paper said, "Bravo and an unnamed officer entered an Amarillo home late at night without clearing it with their supervisor first."

Happy to correct it if there's a more accurate account out there. List links here in the comments or email source material to

Either way, the points about the civil service file and secrecy still stand. Ironically, if this had happened at the Randall or Potter County Sheriff the disciplinary files would be public - they're not exempted under the civil service code.

rodsmith said...

well 9:02 even if your right. it's not going to change a thing in my eyes. Your sneaking around in my yard at 3am and armed. sorry I consider you a imminent threat to me and my family. BYE-BYE.

902 said...

rodsmith, i dont blame you. if two young individuals were sneaking in my backyard univited i wouldnt hesitate to protect myself as well.

rodsmith said...

LOL young! old! if your on my property in the dark and armed. Your a threat.