DA investigator asked to be taken off task force as bad blood between SAPD and Bexar County DA’s office continues

Records obtained by KSAT Investigates accuse the DA’s office of withholding resources because of “possible political ramifications.”

DA investigator asked to be taken off task force as bad blood between SAPD and Bexar County DA’s office continues (KSAT 12 News)

An investigator within a specialized task force at the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office asked to be removed from the unit late last month after citing “officer safety was compromised and political ramifications were put above the officers in the field” during a recent search for a murder suspect, according to records obtained by KSAT Investigates.

In the memo filed by Sgt. Investigator Raul “Ram” Ramirez on March 25, he asked to be removed from the Special Response Unit “at the earliest opportunity.”

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The Special Response Unit, or SRU, was created as a part of the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office to handle executive protection and serve high-risk protective orders, according to a source familiar with the unit.

Records show that Sgt. Ramirez requested to be removed from the unit after an incident on March 22.

Ramirez wrote that the incident led him to “no longer feel the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office CID Command Staff will support me and have my best interest in mind should I or any other team member become involved in a tactical situation and that the possible political fallout will take precedent over the officers involved.”

Warrant executed

Another memo written by an investigator with the U.S. Marshals Lone Star Fugitive Task Force (LSFTF) was included in the records obtained by KSAT Investigates.

That investigator states on Friday, March 22, the LSFTF went to the 6200 block of West Commerce to execute a murder warrant for Sysco Santanna Barrientes.

The warrant, filed by the San Antonio Police Department, states officers believe Barrientes, 27, was responsible for a deadly shooting on December 30, 2023, in the 700 block of Pennystone Avenue.

In the memo written by a member of the task force, he states the location where the warrant was served was known as a location where gang members with Tango Orejon frequented. It also noted that Barrientes said, “If cops tried to arrest him, he was going to shoot it out with them!”

In his report, the federal investigator calls the warrant execution “intense and dangerous” given the location of Barrientes.

The investigator wrote that the U.S. Marshals’ team requested help from SAPD. However, their personnel was tied up. They received the same answer from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, according to records.

At that point, the investigator states he reached out to the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office Special Response Unit, as it had in the past, for assistance.

“I reached out to first Chief Ruben Segovia, and his cellphone did not ring and went straight to voicemail. I then text messaged Deputy Chief Jesse Valdez if I could please speak to him and got no response,” the investigator wrote.

Then, the investigator contacted Ramirez to ask the SRU to help contain the scene for all officers’ safety. The investigator wrote that asking for assistance to help control the perimeter of scenes is common practice.

“Meaning just standing on the outside of target Location or street to make sure if someone tries to come in from the outside or run from the inside out, they would be there to intercept and basically watch the entry teams back from afar, it was always with no hesitation “YES!” and more so if it had higher officer safety risk as all do but some more than others!” the U.S. Marshals investigator wrote about past experiences.

After waiting for Sgt. Ramirez to get an answer from his supervisors, the LSFTF decided to move forward in executing the warrant. At that time, members of SAPD’s covert unit arrived to assist, according to records.

Barrientes was arrested by the LSFTF without incident, according to SAPD. He remains in custody at the Bexar County Jail.

After the arrest, the federal investigator wrote he called Ramirez, with the DA’s office, again to discuss why the SRU couldn’t assist.

“I was told then by Sgt. Ramirez that Captain Castillo stated to him that they were NOT allowed to go because of POSSIBLE POLITICAL RAMIFICATIONS! HOW WOULD IT LOOK POLITICALLY IF SAPD/CHIEF MCMANUS OFFICE WAS NOT INVOLVED SINCE IT WAS THERE (sic) WARRANT? This was an OFFICER SAFETY ISSUE AND SITUATION!” the investigator wrote.

KSAT 12 News reached out to Ramirez regarding the memo he wrote asking to be removed from the SRU.

When Ramirez called us back, he kept asking how we obtained the records and stated he could not speak about what he wrote because he was still working with the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.

After KSAT explained how the open records process works, Ramirez threatened KSAT with legal action if we were to publish a report on what he wrote.

Ramirez said he would be calling his HR representative to discuss the call with KSAT and would call back the next day. That call never came.

DA’s office responds

After meeting with the DA’s office human resources department the day after Ramirez’s complaint was filed, a captain within the DA’s office granted the removal of Ramirez from the SRU team.

However, the captain wrote Ramirez’s memo is: “1) Inadequate in his depiction of the events that transpires, 2) lncorrect in the information he provides does not reflect the true course of events that happened and verified by an agency with direct, first hand information and 3) Misleading that he takes a statement about the possible ramifications politically for an agency (SAPD) for not providing support for one of their own Task Force member serving a warrant for a SAPD charge and implying that it was politically motivation by this Office.”

KSAT 12 News reached out to the DA’s office for comment on Ramirez’s request to be removed from the SRU team.

“The statement that any individual from the District Attorney’s Office compromised officer safety is inaccurate. Our office assists law enforcement every day.

“Other than that, this is an internal personnel matter and our office has no further comment.”

Bexar County District Attorney's Office

When asked if they sent out assistance on the day in question and to whom we should attribute their statement, the response only answered one of those questions.

“You may attribute the comments to the Director of Communications, Pete Gallegos. No further comments will be provided,” the response read.

Another email sent shortly after by Yudiann Guillen, the assistant director of communications at the DA’s office, corrected the spelling of Gallego’s name.

After KSAT 12 News emailed U.S. Marshal Susan Pamerleau asking for a comment on the memos obtained through an open records request, she sent the following statement:

“We have no knowledge of the memo in question, and therefore cannot appropriately offer a response. The United States Marshals Service has a great working relationship with our many partners to include the San Antonio Police Department, Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, plus other state, local and federal partners.. We value these partnerships and work closely with every organization to keep our community safe.”

However, a reporter from another news station in San Antonio contradicted that statement.

The reporter told KSAT that Pamerleau called a reporter at their organization to discuss the memo obtained by KSAT.

When asked about this piece of information, Pamerleau stopped responding to KSAT.

Push for better communication

This allegation from Sgt. Ramirez, echoed by the U.S. Marshal’s office memo, comes after several San Antonio police officers were shot by suspects, some of whom were also shot by officers last summer and into the fall.

This began the public sparring between District Attorney Joe Gonzales and SAPD Chief William McManus.

In September, Chief McManus publicly questioned why a man accused of shooting three officers was still out on the streets despite multiple arrests and old charges.

That same month, a top prosecutor in the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office said some of those delays were at the hands of the chief’s officers.

This back and forth between agencies propelled San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Peter Sakai to form a committee focused on improving public safety in Bexar County.

District Court Judge Ron Rangel was on that committee and wrote recommendations on changes that needed to be made. Some of those changes include better communication between agencies.

We asked Judge Rangel for an interview about Sgt. Ramirez’s memo in which he asked to be removed from the SRU given the recommendations he made just four months before this incident.

Initially, the judge agreed to speak on the topic. However, on the day of our interview, Rangel wavered.

In a text message exchange, the judge said he was “reticent to discuss anything” he doesn’t know about, citing he did not know the specifics of our request.

KSAT 12 News shared the documents with Judge Rangel so he could read the memos for himself before our interview.

Hours later, Rangel asked to postpone and said he would call. The call did not come, and a subsequent text message was not answered.

Read more reporting on the KSAT Investigates page.

About the Authors

Leigh Waldman is an investigative reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

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