On Monday city manager Tommy Turney confirmed that Ballinger police officer
Ernest Juarez is under investigation by the Runnels County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation stems from an incident that occurred on Friday, June 28th leading up to the Party in the Park celebration on Saturday.
According to Turney, “there was an altercation involving an off-duty police officer (Juarez) and a citizen. Due to the alleged misconduct, Juarez has been placed on administrative leave until further notice.” There have been no charges filed at this time but Turney elaborated further on the incident, “Officer Suzanne Torres and another officer responded to the disturbance. They sorted it out and took Juarez home. The very same night, Sgt. Chris Sargent asked Runnels County Sheriff Carl
Squyers to conduct the investigation because we did not want there to be any sense of impropriety or favoritism.”
Turney said that he wants people to know that the investigation is being handled professionally, “The sheriff is investigating the alleged incident and will file his report with the county attorney. This alleged incident involves one of our police officers, a public servant, so the public has every right to know what is going on throughout this investigation and I want them to know that my office will keep the city council and citizens up-to-date on any developments. Stanley (police chief) does not take this matter lightly and obviously he can’t comment on it, not only because it’s an on-going investigation, but also because Juarez is a city employee and involves possible personnel action. We have to be fair to him and we have to be honest with the public. It’s never an easy position to be in but I’m the city manager and Stanley is the police chief and we have a duty to carry out when something like this happens. Open and honest communication is the key and we don’t want anyone to think we aren’t taking it seriously. If anyone has any questions, comments or concerns, they can email me, call me, or come to the office and we’ll have a conversation. Obviously, as said, I can’t discuss much because it’s a personnel issue and the sheriff is the one conducting the investigation but I am there to listen to anyone who has concerns or questions.”
One issue that could play into any personnel action is that Juarez was allegedly demoted from corporal to officer a few months ago. Turney couldn’t elaborate on what happened but said that it involved work performance.
Sheriff Carl Squyers responded to an email from the newspaper, “The Sheriff’s Office was asked by the Ballinger Police Department to investigate the incident due to an off duty Ballinger Police Officer being involved. The Sheriff’s Office is still interviewing witnesses who were in the park when the incident occurred. We should finish our investigation shortly at which time the investigative work will be turned over to the appropriate prosecutor for their consideration.”
Turney summed it up, “As I said, it’s an investigation involving a Ballinger Police
Officer. He is afforded due process just as any employee or citizen is while the investigation continues. He’s on administrative leave right now. We don’t have a target date for the sheriff’s office to conclude their investigation because thoroughness is more important than time and the sheriff’s office is doing a great job.”
The story will be updated as events develop and the investigation works toward its conclusion.