Cell phone footage shows Barrientes Vela’s deputies swarming home of political opponent

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KSAT-TV obtained cell phone camera footage that showed six Bexar County Precinct 2 deputies line up in front of the home of fellow deputy Leonicio Moreno in February and stripping him of his service weapon just weeks after he filed to run against their boss in next year’s election.

The TV station reported that the incident at Moreno’s home in San Antonio is a key part of the Texas Rangers’ criminal investigation into former Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela and three members of her administration.

In the video that KSAT said was provided by someone with knowledge of the investigation, Moreno, dressed in civilian clothes, walks to his front gate and hands over a manila envelope, which the TV report said contained his gun, to Sgt. Gilbert Duquette, his supervisor. Duquette asks Moreno if he has any questions and then departs with the other deputies.

The incident occurred after Duquette had called Moreno three times earlier that day telling him to come into work, although Moreno had taken a sick day, citing stress.

A letter obtained by KSAT indicates Moreno called Bexar County Human Resources to report members of his agency were harassing him after he took a sick day. The letter indicates that Lt. Jeremy Miner later called Moreno, precipitating the incident at Moreno’s home minutes later.

Capt. Marc Garcia described the encounter as “welfare check/retrieve county firearm from distraught employee” incident, the TV station reported, although there was no obvious need for a welfare check. Both Garcia and Miner can be seen in the video.

Barrientes Vela announced in the summer that she would run for sheriff in 2020, which triggered the state’s resign-to-run law. Barrientes Vela filed a lawsuit to try and block county officials from replacing her, but she was forced out of office on Oct. 9.

KSAT reported that sources say Barrientes Vela was behind the incident at Moreno’s home, attempting to make him look unfit for duty, and the letter states Moreno felt “harassed and retaliated against.”

He was placed on administrative leave three days after surrendering his weapon.

Texas Rangers raided Barrientes Vela’s offices on Sept. 23. Barrientes Vela, Garcia, Miner and former Precinct 2 Chief Deputy Anthony Castillo are being investigated for official oppression, tampering with evidence and perjury, according to the Rangers’ search warrant, KENS 5 reported.

Prior to being forced to surrender his gun, Moreno was ordered by Miner to sign a document indicating he wanted time off until after the November 2020 election, but Moreno told Miner he didn’t want to make that request, the warrant states. 

Precinct 2 deputies arrested Moreno on April 30 after Garcia filed a criminal complaint accusing Moreno of committing aggravated perjury by filing complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Barrientes Vela and the constable’s office. Garcia claimed the complaints lacked credibility and prevented the agency from carrying out its responsibilities, but the Texas Rangers’ warrant said there was no factual basis to substantiate Garcia’s claims.

Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales dropped the perjury charge against Moreno hours after his arrest, saying he didn’t believe a criminal violation had occurred, KSAT reported.

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