DWI investigation under scrutiny

April 26, 2011 7:59:05 PM PDT
We're learning more in the case of a Houston police sergeant, charged with DWI in a crash involving a school bus. One of HPD's top commanders admits that an investigation into how the crash report was handled wasn't launched until after Eyewitness News started asking questions. With a blood alcohol content of .176, Houston Police Sergeant Ruben Trejo was charged with DWI almost two weeks after he crashed into a school bus while heading to work, even though the bus driver believed he was drunk. Teresa Argueta claimed she saw open containers in the sergeant's car.

She said, "I tried to take a picture and all the police officers pulled the rug inside. And I tried to take pictures and they said no, go over there."

Instead she was cited for failure to yield. We've now learned internal affairs didn't start investigating the allegations until late last week when Argueta and Eyewitness News began asking questions.

"That information was not conveyed to anybody in the department," said HPD Executive Assistant Chief Michael Dirden. "There was no internal affairs investigation or any type of department inquiry based on information that was provided to the department from folks who were at the scene."

The question is, why? Dirden oversees internal affairs.

"It should have been, if you're investigating an accident and part of the witnesses or some of the witnesses are saying that a citizen was drunk or an officer was drunk -- or anybody was drunk -- that would be information that should be included in the investigation," he said.

He wants to know who was at the scene, what actions were taken and whether witness statements were properly collected.

"It's my responsibility to determine to what extent any employee of the department is culpable and what can the department do about it in the future to ensure that we have better practices," Dirden explained.

A supervisor made the crash scene defended the sergeant against drunken driving allegations. KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy he had a responsibility to not only investigate those claims, but report them to his superiors.

"He was engaged with what most of us would consider a cover up of what was going on," Androphy said. "His job there is to protect the citizens. It's not to protect the police officer."

Former police chief and current City Councilman CO Bradford doesn't believe there was a conspiracy but says at least one person has some explaining to do.

"I heard some comments made by one of the ranking officers concerning this particular incident before the investigation was complete," Bradford said. "I think that comment was improper and I think the evidence as of now has indicated it was wrong even."

Trejo has been relieved of duty with pay pending the outcome of this internal affairs investigation. He's due to make his first appearance in court on May 2.


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