San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz held a press conference addressing the incident regarding a traffic stop that ended with a death.
“I am here today to express our support for the San Marcos Police Department and our police officers,” said Narvaiz.
On August 5, San Marcos Police Officer Paul Stephens stopped local resident Michael Gonzales for speeding on Interstate 35. Stephens approached the car and told the driver to step out, that’s when Gonzalez frantically raising his hands yelled, “she’s dead, she’s dead.” Stephens then learned that Gonzalez and his girlfriend, Krystal Hernandez, were taking their dying dog, Missy, to an emergency veterinary clinic in New Braunfels, because she had choked on some food and was not breathing.
“At that point, Officer Stephens made inappropriate remarks to the distraught people,” said Narvaiz.
In a previous interview with Andy Sevilla of Newstreamz.com Gonzalez said Stephens told him “dude you need to chill out, it’s just a dog you can always get another one.” Gonzalez described feeling disgust and anger. “Imagine if it was your daughter dying in your arms,” said Gonzales. “And [Stephens] said, ‘it would never be my daughter, it’s a dog.’”
A backup officer who later arrived approached Hernandez who was holding Missy in the passenger side of the car.
“Officer [Joyce] Bender took the dog in her hands, tried to clear its airway and tried to get it breathing again,” said Narvaiz. “She was unsuccessful and Officer Bender believed that the dog was already dead.”
According to Hernandez, in a previous interview with Andy Sevilla of Newstreamz.com, Bender examined the dog and gently pushed down on her stomach. “As she was telling me my dog was dead, my dog bit my finger,” said Hernandez. She said Bender then left her and Missy in the car and went to speak with the other officers. “She closed the door and she left, they left me just sitting there in the car and they never came back to ask me anymore questions or tried to help,” said Hernandez. “That’s when [Missy] died, when they left me in there.”
Stephens, in the course of the traffic stop, issued Gonzalez a ticket for speeding, which days later was dismissed.
“The incident lasted 17 minutes, from the time Officer Stephens first attempted to pull them over until the officer released them,” said Narvaiz.
San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams said the officers believed Missy was already dead, therefore they held Gonzalez for approximately 20 minutes because he was too hysterical to drive.
Gonzalez and Hernandez maintain Missy was still alive. ““The time that they wasted in giving me my ticket, I feel was very crucial time, time that we needed,” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez and Hernandez filed a complaint with the San Marcos Police Department on August 6, regarding Stephens’ actions. Chief Williams began an internal investigation and ultimately concluded that Stephens receive a reprimand and counseling concerning his behavior.
Narvaiz said that she believes the corrective action that has taken place was appropriate and that no one is getting fired. “There has a been a storm of controversy nationwide and we have received thousands of emails and many phone calls from people who are extremely upset and dissatisfied with Officer Stephens’ performance and how the chief handled the issue,” said Narvaiz. “Without question, the situation was not handled very well by Officer Stephens. But the characterization of the story has led to death threats against the officer and his family by telephone. This is a sad situation for all concerned, but it does not warrant death threats.”
Narvaiz has not spoken with Gonzalez or Hernandez, the information she has and is presenting is from the police department.
Stephens is a veteran of the Iraq war and joined the San Marcos Police Department in March of 2007. He has no previous history of complaints.
“As Mayor of San Marcos I want to express our regret for this incident and trust we can use it to improve our service to our community,” said Narvaiz.
By ANDY SEVILLA
Photos courtesy of Andy Sevilla
Courtesy of Michael Gonzalez