With a blood-alcohol content of more than twice the legal limit and several open containers of booze in his truck, Houston Police Sergeant Ruben Trejo was on his way to work when he crashed into a school bus last April.
While it became immediately obvious he was drunk, his fellow officers responding to the accident did their best to cover up for him, including threatening to arrest witnesses who tried photographing the open containers in his truck.
Not only did police cite the bus driver for running a stop sign – when witnesses told them it was Trejo who ran the stop sign – they went on record with the media assuring he was not drunk.
But two weeks later, Trejo was charged with DWI. And only because local reporters kept pestering police about it.
According to the original news report from KHOU:
An HPD spokesman said the bus driver ran a stop sign and caused the accident. But other witnesses said the officer was the one who ran a stop sign.
The bus driver said she thinks he’d been drinking.
“He smelled drunk and he had beer and wine opened in his car,” Teresa Argueta said.
Other witnesses said officers at the scene threw a towel over the open containers and threatened to arrest anyone who took photos.
Here is what the Houston Chronicle wrote two weeks later.
A veteran Houston police officer with a blood-alcohol content of .205 — more than twice the legal limit — was driving to work when he collided with a private school bus this month, authorities said.
Ruben Trejo, 46, was charged Monday with driving while intoxicated in connection with an April 13 wreck that sent him to the hospital. The legal limit for intoxication is 0.08.
Trejo collided with a school bus in the 7900 block of Harrisburg while off-duty in his personal vehicle, a Toyota Tundra pickup, about 2:15 p.m., HPD spokesman John Cannon said.
A sergeant on the Eastside patrol division, Trejo was en route to work when he wrecked, Cannon said. There were no children aboard the bus.
And as reporters kept digging, they learned he has a long history of traffic collisions with ABC Local uncovering the following:
According to HPD’s disciplinary records, Trejo has been named at fault in four accidents in 1990, 1992, 1999 and 2000. He was also cited for insubordination and conduct and behavior problems in 2008.
The case is a few months old but it was just brought to my attention today. And while there was extensive media coverage at the time, it doesn’t appear as if they followed up on the story based on archive and Google searches.
So the questions that remain unanswered are:
- Was the citation against bus driver Teresa Argueta for running the stop sign dismissed?
- Did the citation affect her job (which unlike the Houston Police Department, probably doesn’t take too kindly to reckless drivers).
- Was Trejo convicted or did he accept some plea deal?
- Was Trejo disciplined or fired for attempting to come into work drunk?
- Were any of the officers who covered up for Trejo after the accident, including threatening photographers, ever investigated?
- Why did it take two weeks to charge Trejo when the results of the blood-alcohol content test were known after they had transported him to the hospital?
The case is important because it’s just another example of police covering up their own at the expense of law-abiding citizens.
And it just further emphasizes the importance of citizens not only carrying cameras (specifically video cameras), but not being afraid to use them, even under the threat of arrest.
Because it’s obvious the police are not going to police themselves.
That role falls upon us.
UPDATE: The following is a comment left by an Andrew Trent on a Texas blog about Houston Police Captain Robert Manzo, who was leading the accident investigation.
You don’t want to forget about Capt. Robert Manzo who spearheaded the cover up of the DWI. Still insisting that there was no alcohol or other illegal substances involved in the accident, Capt. Robert Manzo made another statement to the press. “We have full confidence in the fact that there would not be any substances of concern found on the sergeant.”
What we now know is that Sgt. Trejo actually had a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit. We know that he returned to work for nearly two weeks after the accident as if nothing had happened.
Executive Assistant Chief Dirden, who is over the Internal Affairs division (“IAD”), admitted in an interview that none of the officers on the accident scene, including Capt. Manzo, had reported any information from which IAD could open an investigation.
We know that Capt. Robert Manzo and a number of the officers on the accident scene were, in fact, aware at the time that there was alcohol in Sgt. Trejo’s truck based on pictures that were taken of the truck and accident scene.
We also now know that Sgt. Trejo arrived at the hospital with a blood-alcohol content of .205 – nearly three times the legal limit. We know that Sgt. Trejo was only minutes from climbing behind the wheel of an HPD vehicle where he was to supervise an entire shift. We know that Sgt. Trejo was not placed under arrest at the time of the accident or at the hospital. And finally, we know that Capt. Robert Manzo, the supervisor and ranking officer on the accident scene failed in his duty to report any of this to his supervisors.
Each and every decision Capt. Manzo made on April 13th was a violation of the public trust. His efforts to cover up Trejo’s crimes began as soon as he arrived at the accident scene. He used his rank and position to direct the actions of the officers under his command to assist with this cover up insuring the omission of particular information in their reports and eventually falsifying his own report.
Captain Robert Manzo should be charged with official misconduct for his role in attempting to cover up a car accident resulting from driving under the influence of alcohol. Additionally he should be charged with official misconduct, conspiracy to commit official misconduct, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and insurance fraud if Teresa Arguete’s insurance policy pays a claim to Trejo.