HPD Chief Charles McClelland said Friday that 24 murder cases were mishandled by a handful of his homicide officers who didn't properly investigate those cases.
"One open case, one unsolved murder, is one too many," said McClelland.
Sgt. Ryan Chandler shoulders most of the blame, says the chief. He's linked to 21 of the 24 cases found to have problems and he's been fired.
"He was lazy. He was a liar," said McClelland. "He was not forthright with his supervisors and he misled his other co-workers."
Chandler's attorney says his client wasn't lazy, but rather overworked in a homicide division that has major problems.
"From what I know of Ryan Chandler and what I know of this investigation, I don't believe that to be a true statement," said Bob Armbruster, Chandler's attorney. "That may be the chief's impression and I think we'll be able to punch holes in that."
The others disciplined are Police Officer Bart Oxspring, Senior Police Officers Kevin Carr, Richard Moreno and Lowell Lovelace, and supervisors Sgt. Bobby Boberts, and Lieutenants Rory Lakind and John McGalin. Punishment ranges from written reprimands to a 10 day suspension. Some of their cases had paperwork issues the chief says Chandler failed to properly investigate.
Also uncovered during the investigation, former cop and current city councilman Ed Gonzalez had six of these case files in his possession. He says it's just an honest mistake.
"Turns out that I had kept some of the materials they had inquired about, so I turned it over to them," he said. "It was an oversight. In no way am I excusing that. I should not have taken them with me, clearly."
The former HPD sergeant left the department when he was elected in 2009. Of the six murder case files he took with him, two of those have deficiencies. The chief says he would have faced discipline had he still been a police officer.
The Harris County DA's Office will take a very close look at the 24 cases.
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