LPD announces disciplinary action in Ysasaga case

Published: Aug. 19, 2015 at 3:12 PM CDT|Updated: Feb. 17, 2016 at 4:12 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Lubbock Police Chief Jerry Brewer announced today that after reviewing the LPD internal affairs investigation regarding the handling of the Mark Ysasaga murder investigation that he is giving Assistant Chief James Shavers a 10 day suspension related to his handling of the investigation. Two supervisors have also been reprimanded.

Shavers will not receive any demotion or change in rank and will continue to lead the patrol division which represents approximately two thirds of the department.

The Lubbock Police Department has released the following information:

We normally do not disclose or otherwise comment on internal affairs investigations. However, due to the severity of the allegations and the amount of public interest surrounding the arrest of Christian Castro on June 5th, 2015, and the recovery of Mark Ysasaga's body on June 6th, 2015, and in the interest of transparency, I believe it appropriate to release as much information as legally possible.

On Friday, June 26th, 2015, I was appointed Interim Police Chief by City Manager James Loomis. One of my first objectives was to determine if there was any officer misconduct surrounding the events mentioned earlier. On Thursday, July 2nd, 2015, I ordered a formal Internal Affairs Investigation. The investigation was quite lengthy and encompassing due to the amount of documents to review and the need to be thorough. Ultimately, the investigation revealed policy violations and procedural errors.

I want to emphasize that these violations and errors were made well after the investigation started and in no way impacted Mark's fate. It is apparent that Mark was in fact deceased before the initial missing person's report was made to the Lubbock Police Department. 

Now for the findings.

Press Release

On June 5th, 2015, a press release was sent out announcing the arrest of Christian Castro, (a person of interest in the murder of Mark Ysasaga), for aggravated robbery and attempted kidnapping. It also stated Mr. Castro was taken to the Lubbock County Jail. That information, as far as the arrest, was accurate at the time of the press release and detectives had every intention of booking Mr. Castro. He was brought to the police department first, however, to be questioned about the robbery/kidnapping. Following that interrogation, he was released and not taken to the county jail. Nor was he taken before a magistrate prior to his release as required by the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. 

It was found that there was no effort to correct the initial press release. A second press release should have been issued to clarify Mr. Castro's arrest status.

Crime Line

Crime Line is a valuable tool for law enforcement. It allows anyone with information regarding investigations to come forward with that information and be rewarded. Part of Crime Line's success is that it allows the person to remain anonymous, should they so choose. In this case, the caller did request to remain anonymous, and I must respect that request. Further, LPD policy does not release the names of witnesses.

Just as is expected in any case, no one in the Lubbock Police Department personally gained from the reward money. No LPD policies were violated and no criminal laws were broken. I am evaluating the need to implement LPD policies or rules necessary to ensure the continued integrity and success of the Crime Line program, a privately funded and controlled entity.

Deletion of the Report

An arrest report (15-20754) was written when Christian Castro was arrested on June 5th, 2015. However, due to the events following the arrest, the report was never officially finalized into the LPD records system. It was subsequently decided the report was not needed based on the fact that charges had been dropped.

The report should not have been deleted. Rather, a supplement to the arrest report should have been written to explain the reason Castro was not booked into the county jail after the arrest. The internal investigation clearly showed that no one involved in deleting the report was aware that an Open Records Request had been received regarding information contained in the report prior to it being removed from the system.

Prior to having the report deleted, Sgt. Mark Watkins had been advised that the arrest information had been covered under a separate supplement report in an unrelated case report. It was therefore his belief that the arrest report was redundant and unnecessary. There was no intent to remove or destroy the information.

It was found that the supplement report relied upon by Sgt. Watkins did not have all the required arrest information documented properly. This has since been corrected and the full details of the arrest has been added by the arresting officer as a supplement to the original robbery report (15-20574). 

The deletion of reports, and particularly arrest reports, are tightly controlled and only done in the rarest occasions. Nevertheless, we are in the process of reviewing and promulgating protocols to ensure that arrest reports are not ever deleted going forward. Further, we have completed Public Information Act training for all supervisors and relevant staff in Administration and Investigations Divisions. This training will eventually be included in supervisor training Department wide.

Disciplinary Actions

The internal investigation did not reveal any intentional acts. It did, however, expose some internal policy violations and judgement errors relating to proper documentation of events, releases of information, knowledge of state law, and standard investigative practices. It was also apparent that despite the best of intentions, command staff became too personally involved in this case and lost the global perspective required to ensure proper procedures and best practices were followed.

Therefore, I am issuing two supervisors letters of reprimand and suspending Assistant Chief James Shavers for 10 days without pay. 

In Closing

I want the citizens of Lubbock to know that their Police Department does hold itself accountable to a higher standard of conduct. I am keenly aware that the integrity of this Department must be beyond reproach. I will do what is necessary for the good of the City and the Department to keep that trust.

After reviewing the internal investigation, I was most disappointed that some deficiencies outshined the otherwise exemplary work of our Persons Crimes detectives and professional staff. Their hard work led to the recovery of Mark's body and the arrest and indictment of a suspect in this case. I am extremely proud of these people and want them to know from me, publicly, that they are the best at what they do on a daily basis, and I thank them for it.

FULL COVERAGE: Mark Ysasaga Murder Investigation

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