Tag Archives: Williamson

Taylor to hold first official Pride event in Williamson County Saturday

Taylor to hold first official Pride event in Williamson County Saturday

TAYLOR, Texas (KXAN) — With the nation celebrating Pride Month for the LGBTQ community, Taylor is holding its own event for the first time ever.

We caught up with organizers setting up for Saturday’s event. It will be the first official Pride event in Williamson County.

City of Taylor to host first official Pride event in Williamson County June 26, 2021 (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)
City of Taylor to host first official Pride event in Williamson County June 26, 2021 (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)

The idea took off after organizers started a Facebook group during the pandemic.

With last year’s event in Austin put on hold, the idea to do something on their own gained momentum in Taylor.

“It’s a huge deal. I mean this is Taylor’s coming out party. The support has been amazing,” said Denise Rodgers, event organizer.

It all starts Saturday in downtown Taylor at 2 p.m. There will be live music and drag queen performances at four venues in downtown Taylor.

Request tickets online here.

If you want to take part in Austin’s Pride event, that will happen this August.

Author: KXAN Staff
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

3 COVID-19 cases caused by Delta variant confirmed in Williamson County

3 COVID-19 cases caused by Delta variant confirmed in Williamson County

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The Delta COVID-19 variant, a strain of the virus that’s spread more easily, is in Williamson County.

The Williamson County and Cities Health District (WCCHD) confirmed Friday that testing identified three cases of the Delta variant, the first ones officially reported in the Austin area.

“It is not surprising to see the Delta variant in our community given how rapidly it spreads,” said WCCHD Lead Epidemiologist Allison Stewart in a statement. “The good news is that the mRNA vaccines have been proven to be highly effective against this variant. The concern locally is that we have more than half the county that isn’t vaccinated and whom are still highly susceptible to this variant.”

Delta is a version of the coronavirus that has been found in more than 80 countries since it was first detected in India. It got its name from the World Health Organization, which names notable variants after letters of the Greek alphabet. Officials say it’s approximately 60% more transmissible than variant B.1.1.7 found in the United Kingdom in late 2020.

WCCHD noted that the current scientific evidence states the variant may be associated with an increased risk of hospitalization, but mRNA vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer are still highly effective against it.

Earlier this week, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported only 25 cases of the variant in Texas. It is thought to be responsible for only a small proportion of the current COVID-19 cases in Texas and the United States, but the proportion of cases is growing quickly and is estimated to be the dominant strain in the U.S. as early as August.

Dr. Rodney Young with Texas Tech Physicians told KXAN’s Maggie Glynn that because it’s easier to transmit, it could potentially become the dominant strain of the virus in “weeks.”

On Tuesday, Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes told Travis County Commissioners there were no known Delta variant cases in the county. KXAN has reached out to confirm that is still the case.

Author: Will DuPree
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

Williamson County veterinarian accused of animal cruelty after boarded dog died

Williamson County veterinarian accused

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — A Williamson County veterinarian is accused of animal cruelty after an English Bulldog boarded at her clinic had to be euthanized.

The owners of 5-year-old Jax said he was healthy when they dropped him off at the Animal Wellness Hospital at 4213 Farm to Market Road 3349 in Taylor on March 13. Surveillance video from that day showed he was fine. When they picked him up March 20, he had sores all over his body — including ones that had progressed to holes in his skin.

  • 5-year-old Jax had deep sores on his body and had to be euthanized (Williamson County Sheriff's Office Photo)
  • 5-year-old Jax had deep sores on his body and had to be euthanized (Williamson County Sheriff's Office Photo)
  • 5-year-old Jax had deep sores on his body and had to be euthanized (Williamson County Sheriff's Office Photo)
  • 5-year-old Jax had to be euthanized after staying at a Taylor vet hospital (Williamson County Sheriff's Office Photo)

He couldn’t walk and was covered in urine, Williamson County Sheriff’s Office said. The owners rushed him to another vet that day, but he had to be euthanized.

Detectives searched the veterinary hospital and “found strong, foul odors, feces, urine puddles, urine-soaked clothing, uncapped used syringes, and loose medications. Detectives observed animals being kenneled and boarded in these conditions, as well as a lack of food and water.” Officials removed animals from the clinic and, while some were initially taken to the Williamson County Animal Shelter, all were reunited with their owners.

Dr. Dana R. Boehm, the clinic’s owner, turned herself in to the Travis County Jail Wednesday. By Thursday afternoon she had bonded out. KXAN left her a message and will update this story when she responds.

Williamson County Jail records show Boehm was charged with felony theft in May 2007.

Author: Kate Winkle
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

Williamson County leaders give the go ahead to gather for live music events

Williamson County leaders give the go ahead to gather for live music events

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Central Texans are celebrating live music events that are beginning to pop up.

In Williamson County, where just under 60% of people have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, city leaders are giving the go ahead to gather again outside in public areas.

Starting Wednesday, the City of Round Rock is launching its sound of summer concert series.  

Starting May 5, Music on Main 2021 will have live music from 6 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday on the Prete Main Street Plaza.

At Louisiana Longhorn Cafe, not only is it crawfish season, but managers are looking forward to the increase in foot traffic every Wednesday for the next couple of months.

“We’re all ready to get back to normal, and this is a great start,” said Kelly Hinkle, Louisiana Longhorn Cafe manager. “As long as enough people are vaccinated, and we can get out and have a great time. It worries me that some people aren’t choosing to get vaccinated, but I hope they at least still wear a mask.”

The City of Round Rock made the call to bring back the weekly event in part because of vaccination totals.

In Hutto, KOKEFest is also a go. The two-day event organized by KOKE FM starts in August and features several country artists.

In Pflugerville, plans are in the works to resume music in the park this summer. The city hasn’t announced official dates for the event as it’s still waiting to confirm artists.

No word yet as to whether or not we’ll see blankets scattered throughout Zilker Park for Blues on the Green. Parks and Recreation for the City of Austin said it’s still working with the health department to get the green light.

Since Austin is still under Stage 3 guidelines, the health department does not advise holding large events.

Author: Kaitlyn Karmout
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

Lawsuit: Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody, others staged SWAT raid for 'Live PD'

Author: Jody Barr
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

Lawsuit: Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody, others staged SWAT raid for 'Live PD'

AUSTIN (KXAN) — If Williamson County Sheriff’s deputies wanted Asher Watsky, they could have easily gotten him. The sheriff’s courthouse security team checked Watsky for weapons when he walked through the front doors of the courthouse and made his way to Judge Donna King’s courtroom.

Deputies had a warrant for Watsky at the time. Watsky was just feet away from the sheriff’s jail door on May 2, 2019 when he showed up with his attorney for a court hearing at the district courthouse in Georgetown.

This is Asher Watsky's booking photograph from May 2, 2019 when he was arrested by the Williamson County Sheriff's SWAT team on an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge. (Williamson County Jail)
This is Asher Watsky’s booking photograph from May 2, 2019 when he was arrested by the Williamson County Sheriff’s SWAT team on an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge. (Williamson County Jail)

Despite the outstanding warrant, dated April 17, 2019, Watsky left the courthouse that day as freely as he arrived.

Hours later, the Williamson County Sheriff’s SWAT team was bearing down on Watsky’s Cedar Park home. The team, in a coordinated militarized effort, lined up outside the home and detonated a flash bang grenade, then broke down the front and back doors of Watsky’s father’s home.  

At least one ‘Live PD’ camera crew was along for the ride recording for the now-canceled A&E reality show. The broadcast showed SWAT’s arrival, which included a camera operator riding along on an armored vehicle with former Williamson County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Mark Luera.

“He (Asher Watsky) strangled his roommate, or attempted to strangle, with a full-sized shovel,” Luera told Live PD as he rode toward Watsky’s home on the national broadcast. “Obviously he’s got a background of violence,” which led to the sheriff’s office decision to use SWAT to arrest Watsky this way Luera claimed, while holding onto the back of the SWAT truck ahead of the May 2, 2019 raid.

The warrant was a no-knock warrant, the type that didn’t require the sheriff’s office to ask to be let inside, according to the federal lawsuit.

Gary Watsky, who’s listed as the plaintiff in the lawsuit, was inside when the SWAT strike happened and found himself on the business end of WCSO’s SWAT team’s assault rifles. The episode sent Watsky into a panic attack and humiliated him in front of his neighbors, the lawsuit contends.

One neighbor told Watsky at the scene his son’s arrest was being broadcast on Live PD. That’s when Watsky noticed the camera crews following the deputies around on his property. “Big Fish had no permission to trespass or film on the Plaintiff’s property,” the lawsuit stated.

A Facebook post on the Williamson County Sheriff's Office account shows former Sheriff Robert Chody promoting former Deputy Mark Luera to Detective on March 14, 2019. (Source: Williamson County Sheriff's Office)
A Facebook post on the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office account shows former Sheriff Robert Chody promoting former Deputy Mark Luera to Detective on March 14, 2019. (Source: Williamson County Sheriff’s Office)

Luera and a pack of 10 deputies “ransacked” Watsky’s home, including the attic, according to the lawsuit. The deputies did not have a search warrant to go through the home, the lawsuit asserted.

The raid was unnecessary and “staged,” according to Watsky’s federal lawsuit, and caused more than $ 5,000 in damage to the Watsky home.

The lawsuit lists then-Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody as a defendant. The suit also lists former WCSO Commander Steve Deaton and former Lt. Mark Luera as defendants.

The lawsuit does not identify nearly a dozen other deputies by name, listing them as “unknown” in the court filing. Watsky’s attorneys wrote they filed a public information request with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office for records showing who all participated in the 2019 raid, but were denied access to the public records on March 17, 2021.

Watsky’s attorneys accused current WSCO Sheriff Mike Gleason of violating the Texas Public Information Act by not turning the records over.

“On April 1, 2021, the current, Sheriff Mike Gleason, has acted in conformity with Sheriff Chody’s long-standing policy of obstructing justice by refusing to timely provide and properly answer a request for material evidence about the May 2, 2021 Watsky incident, including those involved, their identities, training, supervision, discipline records, body camera audio and video, and communications about the removal of the capias, as required by statute, i.e., the Texas Public Information Act,” the lawsuit stated.  

The moment Mike Gleason heard his race had been called in his favor Nov. 3, 2020 (KXAN Photo/Jody Barr)
The moment Mike Gleason received the news he’d defeated incumbent Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody on Nov. 3, 2020. (KXAN Photo/Jody Barr)

Gleason told KXAN Watsky’s allegation about the records request is false.

The WCSO received an open records request from Watsky’s legal team on March 18 requesting records “from all over the place,” Gleason told KXAN. On April 1 the WCSO sent Watsky’s attorneys a response asking for clarification, which is allowable under the Texas Public Information Act. A requestor has 60 days to clarify a request or its deemed withdrawn, according to the state’s open records law.

“We never got a response,” Gleason said. The sheriff told KXAN his office has not denied Watsky’s request for information and continues to wait for clarification from Watsky’s legal team on the records sought.

A message and calls to Watsky’s legal team have not yet been returned.

Watsky’s attorneys wrote in the lawsuit that former Sheriff Chody helped prevent Asher Watsky’s arrest at the courthouse earlier in the day of the May 2, 2019 raid. Chody did so by hiding the outstanding warrant from the judge, according to the lawsuit.

Had the warrant been active when Watsky appeared in court, the judge would have been alerted to its existence and ordered that Watsky be arrested in the courtroom. The plaintiff’s attorneys claim, “…upon information and belief, subject to discovery, Commander Deaton “carried out that order to remove an outstanding capias (or to render it inactive) from the judicial system’s computer, otherwise the computer system would have timely alerted Judge (Donna) King about the alleged outstanding capias.”

“And, if necessary, any arrest of Asher Watsky could have peaceably taken place at that time, in a safe environment and with low risk of harm or injury, however, that procedure would have been contrary to Sheriff Chody’s policy of reckless indifference and custom to orchestrate Big Fish “Live PD” events to justify escalating encounters for drama and entertainment purposes,” the federal lawsuit stated.

The prosecutor’s office also wasn’t aware of an outstanding warrant against Asher Watsky during the May 2019 hearing, according to Watsky’s attorneys.

As claimed in separate lawsuits against Chody and his former department, Watsky’s lawsuit asserted Chody “incited, encouraged and rewarded,” civil rights violations and use of excessive force against people who encountered his deputies.

The lawsuits claim WCSO created a reward system unofficially known as the “WilCo Bada–” which allowed deputies appearances on Live PD and provided gift cards to them.

“These violations of the oath of office occurred because the Sheriff and his deputies, always acting under the color of state law, were further encouraged by Sheriff Chody’s policies and customs to commit crimes when they saw themselves as actors for entertainment on this television series. Various deputies basked in the limelight of the accolades that come with the fame and status of aspiring celebrities, which in turn provided further motivation to create and sustain the false narratives necessary to maintain the high level of theatre-tv-drama for ratings for Big Fish and its advertisers,” Watsky’s attorneys wrote in the federal lawsuit.

“This policy also threatened the lives and security of all Williamson County citizens, particularly for entertainment value,” Watsky’s attorneys wrote in the filing.

The lawsuit claims Chody’s deputies were inadequately trained and the sheriff’s office did not properly discipline deputies for violations against citizens.

Chody did not respond to a request from KXAN seeking comment for this report. KXAN contacted Chody’s criminal attorney, Gerry Morris. Morris is not representing Chody in the civil lawsuits but said, “No we don’t,” when asked if he or Chody had any comment on the allegations in the latest filing.

“I saw all the grand jury testimony, and I don’t know where these allegations are coming from, but they’re absolutely wrong,” Morris said when contacted at his law office Friday afternoon.

Court records do not show attorneys for Luera or Deaton, and attempts to reach both men on social media were unsuccessful. Williamson County declined comment through its spokeswoman.  

Lawsuit: Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody ‘incentivized’ abuses with steakhouse gift cards

Author Jody Barr
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It took less than four years for former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody to create a culture — an award of sorts — inside the sheriff’s office known as “WilCo Bada–,” according to a new lawsuit filed in federal court in Austin.

Chody’s sheriff’s office was “run like a state sanctioned gang, terrorizing citizens,” the lawsuit filed by Imani Nembhard, the victim in an April 2019 excessive force investigation involving a traffic stop by WCSO deputy Christopher Pisa, claimed. Nembhard’s legal team argued she was the victim of Chody’s failure to adequately train deputies and the department’s “culture of constitutional violations.”

The suit lists Williamson County, Chody and current WCSO deputy Pisa as defendants. Pisa was the deputy who pulled Nembhard over in the 2019 traffic stop.

Nembhard had her two daughters in the backseat of her car when Pisa stopped her.

Nembhard was stopped earlier in the day because her car, which belonged to her brother, did not have a front license plate, according to the lawsuit. She received a warning and described the first officer as “polite.”

At one point during the stop, Pisa ordered her out of the car and to put her hands behind her back. The deputy then slammed Nembhard face-first onto the ground, according to the lawsuit, and Pisa got on top of the woman and put his knee into her back.

Lawsuit: Former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody 'incentivized' abuses with steakhouse gift cards
Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody and Williamson County Attorney General Counsel Jason Nassour were indicted in both Williamson and Travis Counties in 2020 and March 2021, each on one count of evidence tampering from the March 2019 in-custody death of Javier Ambler.

Pisa pulled Nembhard’s braided hair “and ripped multiple braids out of her scalp,” the lawsuit contends. The woman was wearing a dress and was lying on the ground with her dress pulled up after Pisa forced her to the ground.

Nembhard said she was cut in her genital area after Pisa “scraped Ms. Nembhard’s naked body against the pavement,” the lawsuit states. The county jail had Pisa take Nembhard to the hospital where x-rays showed Pisa sprained the woman’s shoulder “when he slammed her to the ground,” according to the suit.

On Oct. 15, 2020 — 18 months after the traffic stop — the Williamson County grand jury indicted Pisa on one count of official oppression and one count of assault causes bodily injury. Pisa’s defense attorney Robert McCabe wrote in a press release at the time that the assault was captured on body and dash camera.

Nembhard’s legal team was denied access to the video by both WCSO and the Texas Department of Public Safety; both agencies citing pending prosecution as the reason to withhold the video recordings under the Texas Public Information Act.

But, two WCSO supervisors immediately reviewed Pisa’s video recordings and use-of-force report from the stop and “approved” of Pisa’s actions and “determined that Pisa’s conduct fell within department policy,” McCabe said in October 2020. Pisa resigned from the sheriff’s office two days after the Nembhard arrest.

Sheriff Mike Gleason, who defeated Chody in 2020, rehired Pisa soon after taking office in January. Gleason declined comment for this report.

“Pisa did not intentionally subject Ms. Nembhard to mistreatment nor to an arrest that he knew to be unlawful. Pisa was negligently trained by the Williamson County Sheriff’s office in all things it takes to be a police officer including knowledge of the laws of Texas, how to conduct a traffic stop and how to de-escalate a situation and was prematurely released into the community without proper guidance or supervision on how to do his job. Pisa is responsible for exposing these serious issues in training and supervision by the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. The evidence will show that Pisa suffered from a critically deficient lack of training and was scarcely supervised as a rookie deputy. It is our hope that this incident, at the conclusion of the investigation into other, still pending, use of force cases at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, will ultimately be viewed as a training and supervision failure, rather than as an intentional abuse of power by Mr. Pisa”

Robert McCabe, Pisa’s Defense Attorney

Pisa had not been served with the lawsuit and his attorney had not yet read the filing to provide comment at the time of publication. Williamson County was served with a copy of the lawsuit on April 21.

Pisa charged Nembhard with resisting arrest and assault on a public servant, and she spent three days in the Williamson County Jail. The Williamson County district attorney later dismissed both charges against her and instead decided to prosecute Pisa for his actions in the video recordings.

“Pisa was shocked when he was asked to resign as he believed he was going to be rewarded with a steakhouse gift card by the department for his use of force against Ms. Nembhard, as was the custom and practice at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department under the direction of Defendant Chody,” Nembhard’s attorneys wrote in the federal lawsuit.

Excessive force ‘incentivized’

As in the Javier Ambler lawsuit, Nembhard’s legal team painted the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office under Chody’s reign as an out-of-control department, bent on abusing citizens for the sake of television ratings.

Chody and his department were fixtures on A&E’s ‘Live PD’, a nationally-broadcast reality television program that hired camera crews to ride along with WCSO deputies as they performed traffic stops and answered service calls.

Ambler’s March 2019 traffic stop was never broadcast, but Austin Police Department body camera video shows two Live PD camera operators within feet of Ambler as WCSO deputies JJ Johnson and Zachary Camden fought to get Ambler into handcuffs.

AMBLER-LIVE-PD-WIDE
This still image taken from an Austin Police Department body camera video shows two Live PD cameras pointed at Javier Ambler as two Williamson County deputies worked to handcuff him in March 2019. (Austin Police Department body camera recording)

The arrest happened after deputies tried to stop Ambler for failing to dim his headlights. Ambler would not stop for the deputies, and a 22-minute chase ended inside Austin city limits after Ambler crashed his SUV.

The APD recording shows Ambler tell deputies he couldn’t breathe as they tried to get his hands behind his back. The struggle included deputies hitting Ambler with a taser. Ambler died a little more than an hour after his arrest.

In Ambler’s wrongful death lawsuit, his attorney wrote: “Even after Ambler’s death, Sheriff Chody continued to create ‘entertainment’ with Live PD” and “actively encouraged” deputies to use force against citizens.

During the Texas Rangers’ investigation into the Nembhard stop, Pisa told investigators that Chody’s department had a “use of force incentive program” where deputies were rewarded with steakhouse gift cards, according to Nembhard’s lawsuit.

Both Johnson and Camden, the deputies in the Ambler case, were rewarded with gift cards, the Nembhard lawsuit contends. The Pisa gift card incentive program allegation was substantiated by other members of the department, the suit claims.

Johnson Camden mugshots ambler
The Travis County grand jury indicted former Williamson County deputies Zachary Camden and JJ Johnson on a manslaughter charge for their actions during the March 2019 arrest of Javier Ambler. Ambler died about an hour after the arrest. Zachary Camden (left) and JJ Johnson (right) (WCSO)

“They had the intention that we were all ‘WilCo bada–’ and, if you went out there and did your job and you had to use force on somebody and he agreed with it, then you would get a gift card,” the lawsuit quotes Pisa as stating during the Texas Rangers investigation.

Not only were gift cards rewarded, but the lawsuit claimed using excessive force and having WCSO recognize a deputy for that also meant “getting on TV.”

“Defendant Chody encouraged his officers to engage in dangerous, high-risk police tactics because it made for more entertaining television in service to Live PD,” the Nembhard lawsuit stated.

A message sent to Chody via email had not yet been answered at publication.

Johnson and Camden’s legal team declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Nembhard’s stop was not recorded by Live PD cameras, but Live PD was in town recording with WCSO units the day before, Nembhard’s attorney James Roberts wrote in the filing.

Like McCabe, Nembhard’s lawsuit accuses Chody and the department of inadequately training rookie deputies like Pisa, which led to incidents like Nembhard’s. Pisa was patrolling Williamson County alone within four months of graduating WCSO’s academy.

“Once Defendant Pisa began patrolling in September 2018, supervisors also decreased his field training from the standard five to seven months to only 12 weeks,” the lawsuit alleged.

“The training procedures used for Defendant Pisa were inadequate as he did not receive the same amount of training in de-escalation, use of force, and conducting traffic stops that is standard in the industry according to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and other departments,” Nembhard’s lawsuit stated.

The Nembhard lawsuit is filed in the Western District federal court in Austin. A hearing has not yet been set.

Ex-El Paso police officer will serve 120-day sentence in Williamson County jail

Ex-El Paso police officer will serve 120-day sentence in Williamson County jail

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Alan Dieguez walked into the Williamson County District Courthouse on May 8, 2019 facing two to 20 years in a Texas prison. The El Paso police officer had an agreement with prosecutors that would’ve traded his prison time for probation.

Part of that agreement included Dieguez surrendering his peace officer license for life and other charges in the case were dismissed.

There was still a chance Dieguez was going to jail for pleading guilty to an intoxication manslaughter charge after a crash he caused in June 2016 killed Dane Rutter. The judge approved the plea deal Dieguez and the Williamson County District Attorney’s Office negotiated.

But the judge added a 120-day jail sentence during the May 2019 hearing. Dieguez got credit for two days’ time served.

Nearly two years later, Dieguez still has not served a single day of that sentence.

‘Snake bitten’ prosecution

While investigating Dieguez’s sentencing and plea agreement, KXAN discovered neither Williamson County nor El Paso County jail records show the former officer ever reported to jail. Not a day served in nearly two years following his sentence.

Dieguez was running somewhere around 100 miles an hour when he slammed into the back of Dane Rutter’s 18-wheeler on Interstate 35 in Jarrell, a small town north of Georgetown. The force of the crash ripped the engine from Dieguez’s car.

This crash scene photograph taken by a Texas DPS investigator and obtained by KXAN through an open records request shows the force of the crash was enough to rip the engine from the Hyundai Alan Dieguez was driving the night of this deadly crash on I-35 in Jarrell, Texas, on June 21, 2016. (Texas Department of Public Safety Photo)
This crash scene photograph taken by a Texas DPS investigator and obtained by KXAN through an open records request shows the force of the crash was enough to rip the engine from the Hyundai Alan Dieguez was driving the night of this deadly crash on I-35 in Jarrell, Texas, on June 21, 2016. (Texas Department of Public Safety Photo)

The engine and debris from the crash caused more damage. Passing trucks hit the debris and crash reports show the debris caused another vehicle to hit and kill Rutter. Rutter was getting out of his 18-wheeler to check on Dieguez, DPS wrote in a report.

Dieguez was drunk.

The Texas Department of Public Safety’s crash report shows Dieguez’s blood alcohol content was 0.179, more than twice the 0.08 legal limit in Texas. On the day of the crash, June 21, 2016, Troopers charged Dieguez with driving while intoxicated.

That charge was later dismissed in the plea agreement.

Then, six months later, a Williamson County grand jury indicted Dieguez on an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge. Dieguez’s older brother, Roman Dieguez, was riding in the car when the crash happened and suffered injuries. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss this charge, as well.

Neither charge, though, addressed Rutter’s death.

It took more than two years for investigators to charge Dieguez in connection to the trucker’s death. Although Dieguez didn’t hit and kill Rutter, the grand jury indicted him on an intoxication manslaughter charge on Oct. 23, 2018.

The case was “snake bitten” from the start, according to Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick.

Crash scene photographs taken by Texas DPS investigators and obtained by KXAN under an open records request show the speedometer in Alan Dieguez's crashed Hyundai pegged at 100 miles an hour. (Texas Department of Public Safety Photo)
Crash scene photographs taken by Texas DPS investigators and obtained by KXAN under an open records request show the speedometer in Alan Dieguez’s crashed Hyundai pegged at 100 miles an hour. (Texas Department of Public Safety Photo)

“In Mr. Dieguez’s case it was really complicated; it’s very unlike most cases that we come across in that while he was not technically the person that killed the victim in this case, his actions set in place a chain of events that led to the victim’s death,” Dick told KXAN.

Prosecutors had a problem: arguing direct “causation” on Dieguez’s part — something prosecutors would’ve had a tough time convincing a jury of if the case went to trial. That wrinkle meant Dick’s office knew there was a chance of not getting a conviction.

“So it complicated it from a legal standpoint. Whereas if he were the direct cause, the direct — not only legal but practical cause — this case would’ve been a lot simpler. So really his case was more complicated by the facts of his case but not so much his relationship being a police officer or not, at least from the state’s perspective,” Dick said.

Still, prosecutors knew Dieguez had a bargaining tool: his Texas peace officer license. Getting that license in a plea agreement meant Dieguez could never work in law enforcement again.

Not only in Texas, but anywhere in the United States.

Williamson County District Court Judge Stacy Mathews sentenced Dieguez on May 8, 2019. The 120 -day sentence was mandated by law, Mathews said. However, the judge had discretion over when and where Dieguez served his time.

‘Deferred jail sentence’

Although Alan Dieguez was sentenced to a jail term in May 2019, he didn’t leave court in handcuffs and never walked through the doors of the Williamson County jail that day or anytime since.

Ex-El Paso police officer will serve 120-day sentence in Williamson County jail
Alan Dieguez was indicted in October 2018 on an intoxication manslaughter charge. Dieguez pleaded guilty to the charge in May 2019. (Source: Williamson County Jail)

Mathews allowed Dieguez to wait a year before serving his sentence. The judge let Dieguez return home to El Paso, because he had a baby on the way and was working on finishing up an associated degree at a local college.

Dieguez’s probation sentence was for eight years, and he can serve the 120 days at any point during his probation, which ends in 2027.

The judge allowed Dieguez to serve his sentence in parts, setting his reporting date for June 21 of each year. Dieguez was supposed to report to the Williamson County jail in June 2020, but because of the pandemic, the jail closed its doors to outsiders and to those serving jail time as part of probation.

The jail reopened and neither the court nor Williamson County’s adult probation office gave Dieguez a new date to report to jail.

“That hasn’t happened yet,” Dieguez told KXAN investigator Jody Barr in a phone call in early April when asked why jail records show he hasn’t served his sentence.

Barr emailed Judge Mathews on April 7 asking about the Dieguez sentence. The judge did not respond to the questions, but that same day the judge scheduled a hearing in the case.

Dieguez’s surrender: June 21, 2021

Williamson County records show the last hearing clocked into Dieguez’s case file happened May 8, 2019. Nothing has happened in the case since.

Not until April 14, 2021 — just one week after KXAN asked the judge about the sentence — was Dieguez’s case discussed inside a Texas courtroom. Mathews allowed KXAN into the hearing with a camera but would not allow audio recordings of the hearing.

Dieguez was not in the courtroom and instead joined the hearing over an internet stream from El Paso.

Ex-El Paso police officer will serve 120-day sentence in Williamson County jail
Williamson County District Court Judge Stacy Mathews held an April 14, 2021 hearing to order a new reporting date for Alan Dieguez after KXAN found Dieguez had not served any of his 120-day sentence. (KXAN Photo/Jody Barr)

Dieguez’s attorney spent several minutes defending Dieguez’s performance while under probation. The former officer has not committed any new crimes or violated probation since his sentencing in May 2019.

“He has exhibited; responded well to conditions he’s been given, no threat to society and working parent, husband and taxpaying member of society. His response I think has been exceptional,” Steve Brittain said during the April 14 hearing.

Brittain suggested the judge modify the sentence to allow Dieguez to serve a more significant community service or even an added fine in lieu of serving jail time.

Judge Mathews would not entertain that.

“The 120 days; 118 days will be served in custody,” Mathews told Brittain, noting the 120-day sentence was mandated by law in a plea to this particular charge. “In this case, I just think the jail time is state-ordered for a reason, and I don’t supplant my opinion for what the legislature says it is,” Mathews said.

Brittain asked for another delay in Dieguez’s reporting date, because the former officer had not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, “Jail is still the most dangerous place you could go, not only with health but health in general,” Dieguez’s attorney said.

Ex-El Paso police officer will serve 120-day sentence in Williamson County jail
For the first time since May 2019 Alan Dieguez’s name appeared on a court docket for a hearing in Williamson County. This hearing schedule posted outside the district courtrooms shows Dieguez’s April 14, 2021 hearing. (KXAN Photo/Jody Barr)

Brittain asked the judge to not order Dieguez’s reporting date to start until the former officer is fully vaccinated.

“I think it’s not unreasonable in light of all the changes because of this pandemic to have somebody who’s responding to probation the way he has to have a reasonable amount of time to report,” Brittain argued.

Mathews set Dieguez’s annual reporting date for June 21. It’s the day of the crash and the day Dane Rutter lost his life. The judge explained that date “has impact” for Rutter’s family and for Dieguez to
“think about” what happened.

Mathews issued her ruling from the bench during the April 14 hearing, once again not sending Dieguez straight to jail. The judge cited Dieguez’s continued adherence to his probation and testimony from Dieguez’s side showing that he’s got another baby on the way and that the former officer now owns his own roofing business.

Dieguez said taking him away from his business for a four-month sentence would damage his family financially.

“The last thing I’d want is for anyone to lose their job,” Mathews said during the hearing.  

The judge warned Dieguez if he didn’t serve all 118 days before his probation ends in 2027, the court would extend his probation until the full sentence is served.

The order requires Dieguez to surrender to the Williamson County jail on June 21, 2021. A decision on the number of days Dieguez will serve at that time was left up to him. Williamson County’s probation office gave Dieguez a week to decide the length of his first jail stay.

Jody Barr

This article originally appeared on KXAN Austin

PHOTOS: Hail pummels parts of Burnet, Williamson Counties

Hail pummels parts of Burnet

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Folks in Liberty Hill, Round Rock and Leander were pummeled by hail as severe storms moved through Central Texas Thursday afternoon.

The storms prompted Severe Thunderstorm Warnings for parts of Williamson County throughout the early afternoon. Up to tennis ball-sized hail was reported in some areas.

FORECAST: Tennis ball size hail reported as severe storms move through parts of Central Texas

KXAN viewers sent in their pictures of the hail that fell in their yards. We will continue to add to this gallery as more photos come in.

  • Hail on the ground at Primitive Baptist Church in Burnet, Texas after severe storm April 15, 2021 (Photo: Rachel Bryson)
  • Hail in Leander April 15, 2021 (Courtesy Robin Askelson)
  • Nearly tennis ball-sized hail in Round Rock (Courtesy Greg Gotham)
  • Hail covering a deck in Elgin, Texas on April 15, 2021 (Courtesy: Tomea Walker)
  • Hail in Leander April 15, 2021 - Trenell Landry
  • Hail in Pflugerville April 15, 2021 - Susan Humphrey
  • Hail in Round Rock April 15, 2021 - Susan Mayes
  • Hail in Round Rock April 15, 2021 - Melissa Glouchkova
  • Hail in Round Rock April 15, 2021 - Melissa Adcock
  • Hail in Liberty Hill April 15, 2021 - Wanda Sweeney
  • Hail in Liberty Hill April 15, 2021 - Wanda Sweeney
  • Hail in Round Rock - Joanne Douglas
  • Hail in Cedar Park April 15, 2021 - Jennifer Creed
  • Hail in the Avery Ranch area on April 15, 2021 (Courtesy: Udhaya Kannan)
  • Hail in Leander April 15, 2021 - Mike Dickey
  • Hail in Round Rock April 15, 2021 - Williams Perez
  • Hail in Round Rock April 15, 2021 - Dawn Bures
  • PHOTOS: Hail pummels parts of Burnet, Williamson Counties
  • Hail in Round Rock April 15, 2021 - Emily Ingalls
  • Hail in Leander April 15, 2021 (Photo: Marilyn Stokes)
  • Small hail in Burnet, Texas on April 15, 2021
  • Penny-sized hail in downtown Burnet on April 15, 2021 (Courtesy: James Kershner)
  • Hail between Holda and Doss in southern Mason County on April 15, 2021 (Courtesy: John Spencer)
  • Hail between Holda and Doss in southern Mason County on April 15, 2021 (Courtesy: John Spencer)
  • Ping pong ball sized hail in Cedar Park April 15, 2021 (Courtesy Alice Belous)
  • Hail between Bertram and Liberty Hill April 15, 2021 (Courtesy Paul Hickman)
  • Hail covers a porch in Burnet, Texas, April 15, 2021 (Courtesy Alan Vizina)
  • Golf ball-sized hail in Leander April 15, 2021 (Courtesy Mrandon Morey)
  • PHOTOS: Hail pummels parts of Burnet, Williamson Counties
  • PHOTOS: Hail pummels parts of Burnet, Williamson Counties

Pflugerville in Travis County was also hit hard. Neighbors told KXAN crews they saw golf ball-sized hail. Video sent in from the Falcon Pointe neighborhood shows hail bouncing off the ground.

Car windshields in the neighborhood were cracked from the hailstorm, and the hoods have dents. Jennifer Ebert, who lives in the area, said she was waiting for her son in her car at the school bus stop when the hail began pounding down on her roof.

She was scared it might actually break through.

“We got several cracks. This one here you can actually feel on the inside of the car. So it almost went all the way through it,” Ebert said.

Another neighbor, Betsy, said, “I got a warning on my KXAN Weather App — it’s on my phone. And then all of a sudden it just came down like a bucket. And it just started, like loud, all around the house — popping. It’s not like it was the pea-sized, I knew it was really big.”

Many have already started filing insurance claims and will soon assess roof damage on their homes.

This video from Tim McCoy in Leander shows hail plopping into a backyard pool.

Viewer Bob Myers shared another video of hail covering up most of the ground.

Hail fell on top of cars in Round Rock, likely causing damage, as seen in this video submitted by Paula Israel.

RELATED: Hail damage to your car after severe storms? Here’s what you can do

Viewer Stacie Carey submitted this video of hail bouncing off a trampoline in Leander.

Do you have storm photos? Send them to [email protected] with your name and the location the picture was taken.

Jaclyn Ramkissoon
This article originally appeared on KXAN Austin

Texas allotted 1.9M COVID-19 vaccine doses next week — Travis County to get 27K, Williamson County to get 20K

Texas allotted 1.9M COVID-19 vaccine doses next week — Travis County to get 27K, Williamson County to get 20K

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas is set to receive 1.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines next week, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced Friday.

DSHS is designating 796,360 of those as first doses to be distributed across 468 providers in 116 counties. The department also ordered 605,390 second doses.

Another 500,000 first and second doses are going to pharmacy locations, federally-qualified health centers and dialysis centers, according to DSHS. This supply is allocated directly by the federal government.

This week, Texas received fewer doses due to a reduction of 350,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. States are expected to get less supply of the J&J vaccine until a plant in Baltimore is able to help out with production, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

DSHS reported the state has now given out more than 13.6 million doses. More than 8.8 million people have gotten at least one dose, and another 5.25 million are fully vaccinated.

You can still register with the Texas Public Health Vaccine Scheduler online[3]. The form will match you with an available vaccine appointment through a participating health organization in your county.

Central Texas providers getting doses next week

Travis County

Provider Moderna Pfizer J&J Total
Austin Public Health 12,000 12,000
Austin Radiological Association  200 200
UT Health Austin (Dell Medical School) 8,190 8,190
Austin Regional Clinic 800 800
Crossover Health Medical Group 1,000 100 1,100
Lone Star Circle Of Care 400 400
Wellmed 500 100 600
E. David Pampe, M.D. 100 100
Family Wellness Clinic Ut Austin School Of Nursing 300 300
Guadalupe Zamora M.D., P.A.  100 100
Jose F. Santiago M.D. 100 100
Red River Family Practice 200 200
Seton Medical Center Austin 2,000 2,000
Shots For Tots St. Johns 300 300
Auro Pharmacy  1,200 1,200
Trinity Internal Medicine  100 100

Williamson County

Provider Modern Pfizer J&J Total
Lone Star Circle of Care TAMU Health Science Center Family Health 100 100
WCCHD Round Rock  1,600 1,600
Lone Star Circle Care Taylor Health Center 100 100
Austin Regional Clinic 1,200 1,200
Lake Aire Med Center Senior Health Wellness 100 100
Jarrell Medical Clinic  100 100
Wellmed Leander  100 100
Baylor Scott & White Round Rock Family Medicine 1,000 1,000
Curative Medical Associates PA 5,000 11,700 15,700

Hays County

Provider Moderna Pfizer J&J Total
CVS Pharmacy #10535 2,000 2,000
Texas State University Student Health Services 1,200 1,200
Brookshires Pharmacy 67 100 100
Hays County Health Department 3,510 3,510
Ascension Seton Health Center Buda 100 100
BSWH Buda Medical Center 500 500

Bastrop County

Provider Modern Pfizer J&J Total
A+ Life Style Medical Group 2,000 2,000
Family Health Center At Elgin 100 100

Burnet County

Provider Moderna Pfizer J&J Total
Family Wellness Center, P.A. 300 300
LSCC Family Care Center At Marble Falls 100 100
BSW Medical Center Marble Falls  1,170 1,170

Fayette County

Provider Moderna Pfizer Johnson & Johnson Total
Tejas Healthcare Clinic 100 100

Gillespie County

Provider Moderna Pfizer  J&J Total
Hill Country Memorial Hospital  600 600

Lee County

Provider Moderna Pfizer J&J Total
Davam Urgent Care 100 100
Pieratt’s Pharmacy 100 100
Giddings State School 100 100

Milam County

Provider Moderna Pfizer J&J Total
Milam County Health Department 300 300

Data concerning specific providers in Central Texas was compiled by KXAN Intern Hannah Falcon.

Jaclyn Ramkissoon

Williamson County Sherriff's Office investigating death of man charged with killing police officer

Williamson County Sherriff's Office investigating death of man charged with killing police officer

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Detectives with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the death of a man who was recently released from custody while on life support.

WCSO says Raul Ramos Martinez[1], who was arrested and incarcerated in February 2018, died at a local hospital on Friday, after being on life support for underlying medical issues since March 16.

Martinez reportedly visited the hospital due to underlying medical issues on several occasions during his incarceration. After his March placement on life support, WCSO says the Martinez family petitioned the county to release him from custody so medical care could be decided.

The request was granted on Friday. Martinez died shortly after.

Martinez was arrested back on February 25, 2018, in relation to the death of Round Rock Police Officer Charles Whites[2]. Whites, a veteran officer, was working a traffic crash when he was hit by the vehicle Martinez was driving.

Martinez was charged with felony intoxication assault/manslaughter with a vehicle. Round Rock Police said he was on prescription medication on the morning of the crash.

WCSO, in cooperation with other local departments, says it’s investigating the matter out of an abundance of caution due to his extended time in Williamson County custody. The county has also requested the Texas Rangers perform an independent investigation.

Russell Falcon