Mart school trustees say police chief didn’t provide protection during student threat

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In a formal complaint filed Tuesday Mart school district trustees said Mart Police Chief Albert Cavazos failed to protect the city’s schools from a threat last week, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported.

Jerry Donald Shepherd, an 18-year-old student, was arrested Jan. 8 for making threats on social media the previous day. In a video posted online, Shepherd points a handgun and an assault rifle at the camera and accompanying text threatens retaliation for his removal from school athletic and band programs, the newspaper reported. 

School officials were upset that police didn’t show up on Jan. 8 to guard Mart High School after the threat was made. Five of seven trustees on the Mart school board signed a letter of complaint during a special school board meeting called to discuss the threat. Mart City Administrator Kevin Schaffer, who also serves on the school board, abstained, and board member Richard Green was absent, the Tribune-Herald reported.

The letter states that Superintendent Betsy Burnett reported the threat to Cavazos on the evening of Jan. 7. Shepherd showed up at a school basketball game that evening and the police chief led him away in handcuffs, but Cavazos declined to arrest him as he continued his investigation, the letter notes.

“We couldn’t notify our parents of a threat that the police had deemed non-existent,” the letter states. 

Burnett told the Tribune-Herald that police also didn’t provide protection at the school the next day, although Cavazos finally decided to arrest Shepherd that evening, more than 24 hours after the video was posted.

“We feel that at a minimum local law enforcement should have been present on campus Jan. 8 and until the threat had passed,” the letter states. “We feel that we could have had more support without a police force in the city because then we could access county services. However, due to the inaction of the police department, we were essentially blocked from receiving any services and providing a safe and secure environment for our students and staff.”

The newspaper reported that the Mart City Council met in executive session with Cavazos on Monday during its regularly scheduled meeting, but no official action was taken regarding him during that meeting.   

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