The Trevinos say the actions of one of deputies could be considered racial profiling based on the fact that the deputies lacked probable cause to stop them, behaved in an aggressive and threatening manner, and one deputy referred to them as “Hispanic male” and “Hispanic female” in his written incident report instead of referring to them by name.
“In the report it keeps on repeating that he observed an ‘Hispanic male,’” Trevino said. “Now I am getting the thought that maybe he was just profiling. It’s a possibility.”
Mr. Trevino said that the choice of language in the report taken alongside the fact that in his opinion, the deputies had no clear probable cause for stopping them that night, leads him to think that he and his wife may have been seen as suspicious, based solely on their ethnicity and for no other reason.
It all started on the evening of Aug. 15, 2011, when the Trevinos were in their pickup truck with their dog, Bronco, a 40-pound part Lab and part English Bulldog. The Trevinos and Bronco were on property that they own at a location just outside of Kenedy.
According to Mr. Trevino, he and his wife often go out there with their dog to get out of town and relax and enjoy the countryside, the evening breeze and the sunset.
Mr. Trevino said that it was that evening when he and his wife saw a sheriff’s department patrol car pass them on the highway traveling at an alarmingly high rate of speed.
They then saw the police car pull off the road and turn around and drive towards where their pickup was parked with a bright spotlight and emergency red and blue flashing lights turned on.
Mr. Trevino then grabbed his dog and put the dog in the bed of the pickup, because according to Mr. Trevino, the dog is very friendly and tends to run up to people when he sees them.
Mr. Trevino walked toward the deputies when he saw them get out of the patrol car. He began to introduce himself and let them know that they were on their own property.
As Mr. Trevino was walking toward the deputies, the dog jumped out of the bed of the truck and ran toward Deputy Guy Finney.
As Mr. Trevino described, and as the video of the incident shows, Finney then drew his pistol from his holster and immediately fired his weapon at the dog.
The dog then ran away into the darkness and Mr. Trevino went after him. According to the Trevinos, Deputy Finney then kept his gun raised and pointed toward Mr. and Mrs. Trevino for the next 45 seconds.
At that point in time, the Trevinos were unsure if their dog had been shot, but later found out the bullet did not strike the dog, but the sound of the gunfire so close to the dog’s ears had caused him to go into a state of shock.
Mr. Trevino said Deputy Finney immediately started yelling at him while holding the gun on them saying, “I’m not going to let your dog bite me!”
For the next minute or two, having seen the deputy fire his weapon at their pet, the Trevinos became very concerned about what Deputy Finney might do next with the weapon he continued to point in their direction.
Mr. Trevino was able to catch Bronco and put him inside the cab of the pickup truck. Once the dog was in the truck and the doors were closed, Deputy Finney then holstered his gun.
Mr. Trevino continued to explain to the officers who he and his wife were and why they were at that location and he showed his drivers license to the deputies. The deputies used their radio to call in Mr. Trevino’s drivers license and vehicle license information and confirmed everything that Mr. Trevino was telling them.
The officers continued to question Mr. Trevino and as they did, Mrs. Trevino began to become very upset as she watched the questioning from the cab of the pickup. Mrs. Trevino said she became terrified, not knowing whether the dog had been shot, or her husband had been shot, and she became more and more fearful about what might happen next.
Mr. Trevino said Deputy Gregory Merkert told him he was a rookie officer in training under the supervision of Deputy Finney.
Mr. Trevino said he believed that Deputy Finney was trying to “show off” or “look tough” in front of the new deputy in training.
At one point during the conversation at the edge of the highway, according to Mr. Trevino, Deputy Merkert told him that he believed that he (Trevino) was acting in a threatening way toward the two police officers.
“I said, ‘Why am I scaring you guys?’” Trevino said. “I’m just telling you that we are here – not doing anything wrong.”
At that moment, Mr. Trevino said he became afraid about what the two officers might do next.
“I said, sir, I’m going to tell you right now, whatever y’all are doing – the way you are handling this matter, you are going to get a super major complaint,” Trevino said. “This is not going to just disappear. You could have easily killed me, killed my wife, or even put yourselves in danger.”
“I was telling them all that stuff,” Trevino said, “but they didn’t like what they were hearing.”
Suddenly, the demeanor of the officers completely changed, Mr. Trevino said. The officers then instantly became less aggressive and began apologizing to Mr. and Mrs. Trevino.
Mr. Trevino said his main complaint was with what he described as the very aggressive way the officers approached himself and his wife, causing both of them to become terrified by a situation that had become extraordinarily tense.
Deputy Finney then approached Mrs. Trevino, who was sitting inside the truck, and began to apologize.
“I was really upset, because he (Deputy Finney) just got out of the car and started shooting, and I noticed that he was so close... I thought they had shot him. He came to apologize to me and I said, ‘I really thought you shot Ernesto (Robert).”
“That should not have been handled like that,” Mrs. Trevino said. “We were on our property. I even yelled at him, ‘We’re on our property!’ They were very aggressive.”
According to Mr. Trevino, while Deputy Finney was talking to Mrs. Trevino, Deputy Merkert seemed nervous and told him that the other officer had acted inappropriately.
Everyone began to calm down at that point, according to Mr. Trevino, and the deputies then left the location. The Trevinos also went home.
Later that night, Mr. Trevino said their dog went into a comatose type state, and he thought the dog had died. The dog suddenly woke up, returning to a conscious state, Mr. Trevino said. Mr. Trevino took the dog to a local veterinarian and the veterinarian told him that he believed the dog had gone into shock as a result of the gun being fired so close to the dog’s ears.
The whole situation was a nightmare, Mr. Trevino said, for both himself and his wife.
Mr. Trevino said he tried to reach the sheriff to express his concerns about the situation, but was told that the sheriff was not available and was told that their complaints would be referred to another officer who would listen to their complaints and investigate if needed.
A Karnes County Sheriff’s Office investigator named Kevin Ficke met with the Trevinos to listen to their complaints and investigate the situation.
Ficke told the Trevinos that they would have the opportunity to meet with the sheriff to discuss the complaint, if they chose to do so.
The interview between the investigator and the Trevinos was recorded, but according to Sheriff David Jalufka, no report was ever written.
Mr. Trevino told the investigator that he believed that Deputy Finney should have been fired or reprimanded as a result of the inappropriate and aggressive way he behaved that night. Trevino said his main concern was the public safety – his concern about having an officer on duty that could act in such an aggressive and reckless manner.
The incident reports filed by Deputies Finney and Merkert do not significantly differ from the version of events described by the Trevinos, although in Finney’s report, he claims that at no point was his gun ever pointed toward Mr. Trevino. The reports claim that the deputies were traveling on FM 2509 after having served some civil process papers when they saw the pickup parked next to a trailer on the property. Finney told Merkert, who was driving the patrol car, to pull up to the pickup in an effort to find out what the pickup truck was doing there.
In the report filed by Deputy Finney, the deputy said that the dog charged toward him in an aggressive manner. He also said that the “Hispanic male” made no attempt to call the dog back.
“I believed that I was in immediate fear of my life and being attacked by the dog,” Finney said in the report.
Deputy Merkert’s report described the sound the dog was making as a an “unknown sound” or “small snarl.”
According to the Trevinos, Bronco was not growling or making any sound at all when he ran up to the deputy. According to them, this was just Bronco’s way of saying, “hello.”
When asked about the incident in October of 2011, Karnes County Sheriff David Jalufka told The Karnes Countywide that he had viewed the video and other reports and in his opinion, both officers acted appropriately and professionally under the circumstances.
Four months later, after releasing the video and other records requested by The Karnes Countywide, Jalufka said that neither of the deputies were officially reprimanded or disciplined in any way, although after watching the video, he said he cautioned the deputies about use of profanity or obscene language while on duty.
With the exception of the profanity, Jalufka described the actions his deputies took that night as being “by the book.” He did note, however, that Deputy Finney no longer works for the sheriff’s department. Since the incident, Finney accepted a better paying position with the Kenedy Police Department.
Jalufka disputes the Trevinos’ claim that Deputy Finney kept his gun pointed at them for 45 seconds. According to Jalufka, the deputy had his armed raised, but he held the gun across his chest so that it wasn’t pointed toward anyone. Because the camera was directly behind Deputy Finney, the video does not clearly show precisely in what direction the gun was pointed, but it clearly shows the deputy’s arm was up with his elbow extended out perpendicular to his body.
Mr. Trevino, who works for UPS and Mrs. Trevino, who works for the Kenedy Independent School District, brought the story to The Karnes Countywide in October of 2011 because they said they felt the complaints they brought forward had been ignored by Karnes County Sheriff David Jalufka.
At that time, The Karnes Countywide requested video and other records related to the incident, but the sheriff refused to release the video and other records.
Three months later, in January of 2012, the Attorney General for the State of Texas ordered the sheriff to release the video and other records to The Karnes Countywide.
About a month later, in February, Sheriff Jalufka released the video and some of the other records requested.
As a result, a more complete account of events can now be told even though it has been more than seven months since the Trevinos’ encounter with the two deputies.
Shortly after the incident, the Trevinos made formal open records requests for among other things, the video of the incident, the copies of the incident reports and the recording that the investigator made interviewing them the day after the incident.
To this date the Trevinos say the only thing they have received is a copy of the video, but still have not received copies of the investigator’s recording or either of the incident reports.
The Trevinos say they have been in communication with the Texas Attorney General’s office regarding these open records requests. According to the Trevinos, the Attorney General’s office is continuing to look into the matter. The Trevinos believe that the fact that the sheriff has not released the records is a criminal violation of the Texas Open Government Act.
The Karnes Countywide contacted the Attorney General’s office Monday who confirmed that the Trevinos’ complaint against Karnes County is still active and their Open Records Division is working on it.
Video taken by the camera in the patrol car that night is now online at mysoutex.com.