Video Also Caught Another West U. Officer Lying About Injury
A West U. police officer facing felony charges for allegedly fabricating reasons he stopped vehicles was not the first officer the city has fired after in-car video footage told different stories than the officers had previously reported.
In October 2008, West U. Officer Rosemarie Valdes was fired because in-car video showed she allegedly lied about getting hit by a car and injured while she was directing traffic. Read more here about the criminal charges faced by the other former officer, Nelson Hernandez.
In response to an InstantnewsWestU public information request, the city delivered a report from its internal affairs investigation about Valdes.
She reported to her supervisors that on Oct. 20, 2007 she was in the 4200 block of Bellaire Boulevard, directing traffic to turn around. Bellaire police were pursuing a stolen car, and Valdes was forcing other cars away from the scene.
“I did not want any citizens to be in the line of fire, or in harms way if the occupants of the stolen vehicle were armed,” Valdes wrote in an affidavit about one week after the accident.
Valdes told her supervisors that an elderly driver hit her in the leg while she was directing traffic.
[sic] “my knee is hurt… that old lady hit me with her car,” Valdes wrote to her supervisor in an officer chat log. “in case you were interested she knocked me onto her hood…. i hope i dented it.”
According to Valdes, she tried to get the driver to pull over, but the woman drove away.
The officer returned to the police station and her supervisor sent her to the West U. fire station so paramedics could inspect her leg. A paramedic’s report said “the patients [sic] left knee does not have any bruising or swelling and no deformities.” But Valdes later went to Memorial Hermann Hospital and “she was diagnosed as having a sprained knee and ligament damage,” according to an email between police supervisors on the night of the accident.
As a result, Valdes was on “light duty” from Oct. 20, 2007 to Jan. 8, 2008.
On the day of the accident, West U. Patrol Sergeant Ed Tobio canvassed the area for witnesses, and also asked other police officers who had been at the scene whether they had seen what happened. No one saw the accident.
The department then turned to Valdes’ in-car video to try to get the license plate number of the car that had allegedly hit her. But the video from her car was ruined because the camera was broken and the images were washed out. Investigators then turned to the in-car video of another officer who had been at the scene.
“The original video was blown up to 400% into the quadrant of the incident. As you watch, it appears that the office [sic] walks towards the vehicle in question then takes a step back at which point she turns and walks away apparently uninjured (no limping or loss of balance was visual — in my opinion),” according to a letter dated Dec. 11, 2007 from Tony Imel, a superintendent in the San Antonio branch of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. The West U. Police Department had sent the video footage there for processing.
Department action on the video evidence was suspended when Valdes was involved in an unrelated vehicle accident on Feb. 12, 2008. She was on injury leave for more than five months. When Valdes returned to work, the department resumed the internal investigation.
On Sept. 24, 2008, the department gave Valdes a chance to recant her story of events. She physically demonstrated to her supervisors what had happened during the alleged accident.
“During this demonstration which was recorded, you demonstrated that you were knocked up onto the hood of the vehicle with your feet coming off the pavement,” according to an Oct. 8, 2008 memo from Police Chief Ken Walker. “The video from Officer Carson’s vehicle showed that your account of this incident is false.”
Valdes was fired for violating department policies regarding integrity, truthfulness and making fake illness or injury reports. She appealed the decision, but City Manager Michael Ross upheld the termination.
“Police officers have to have integrity,” Walker said this week. “We will not tolerate dishonesty.”