Fallout still unclear in crash involving former RGC cop

The legal ramifications remain unclear in a case involving the resignation of a now-former Rio Grande City police officer from his position earlier this year after crashing his patrol unit with a suspect inside.

Jose Arnoldo Alaniz resigned from the Rio Grande City Police Department in February after allegedly running a red light, which is a violation of department policy. The situation was made even more severe given that Alaniz was transporting a suspect at the time and another car subsequently collided with the unit.

The incident occurred at approximately 2:23 a.m. on Dec. 23, 2018, according to the crash report from the Texas Department of Transportation.

The report stated Alaniz ran a red light traveling south on FM 3167 while transporting a suspect in his patrol unit. He was about to make a left turn onto U.S. Highway 83 when a vehicle traveling west hit the patrol unit, sending it spinning.

The driver of the second vehicle was charged with driving while intoxicated, according to the report, and was taken to Texas Department of Transportation while the passenger of that vehicle was transported to Starr County EMS. The suspect Alaniz was transporting refused treatment.

Alaniz could not be reached for comment for this story.

Four days after the incident, on Dec. 27, Alaniz’s supervisors sent him a letter of suspension.

“Luckily you did not get hurt or get someone else hurt,” they wrote in the letter, “but in the manner you operated your patrol unit it is a violation of Rio Grande City Police Department Policy under Chapter X subsection (GG) and subsection (U).”

Those sections of their policies state that officers “shall drive police vehicles to conform to state law and city ordinances when making routine calls and while patrolling” and that “employees shall maintain their own equipment and city equipment issued to them in good condition.”

Alaniz received a one week, unpaid suspension that lasted from Dec. 30 through Jan. 1 for a total of 38 hours.

Then on Jan. 9, the police department received a letter from the suspect who was being transported by Alaniz.

The attorney, Gilberto Falcon, requested the department preserve the patrol unit, stating it was “critical evidence and should not be altered, destroyed, changed or tampered with.”

“Please understand that I am not sending this letter to create any hostility,” Falcon wrote. “I am simply trying to preserve the evidence on behalf of my client.”

When reached by phone on Wednesday, Falcon said they were currently dealing with insurance matters but said he could not discuss the facts of the case as it was still ongoing.

No formal legal action has been taken by Falcon’s client against the police department or Alaniz.

Almost two weeks following Falcon’s letter, Rio Grande City Police Chief Noe Castillo sent a letter to Alaniz on Jan. 22, notifying him he was being permanently reassigned, changing his status as a peace officer to communications officer, effective immediately.

“Your reassignment is due to the recent accident on December 23, 2018, and work history that is contained in your personnel file,” Castillo wrote.

His “work history” could be a reference to another accident involving Alaniz in 2012. The accident report of that incident states that on Jan. 26, 2012, he was involved in a vehicle accident in Rio Grande City. However, no details of how the accident occurred are included in the report.

Castillo did not immediately return a request for comment.

Then on Feb. 10, less than three weeks after his demotion, Alaniz submitted a letter of resignation.

“Like I’ve told you all in the past my heart belongs with the City of Rio Grande, but unfortunately the decrease in pay was a major impact for my family and I,” he wrote. “I would like to thank you all for giving me the opportunity for working with the Rio Grande City Police Department for these past 4 in (sic) a half years.”

Alaniz previously served as a telecommunications operator for the RGC police department from November 2000 until March 2003, according to records from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

He then was a telecommunications operator for the Starr County Sheriff’s Office from April 2004 to March 2009.