San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

November 4th, 2009
Williams says city safe as police arrest intruder

Dennis Andrew Nefedov.

By ANDY SEVILLA
Associate Editor

In the wake of the latest arrest for a San Marcos home invasion, San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams said a recent wave of headline violence does not characterize the frequency of violent crime within the city limits.

Following an Oct. 21 home invasion on Oscar Smith Drive, the San Marcos Police Department (SMPD) recently charged 21-year-old Dennis Andrew Nefedov with burglary of habituation with intent to commit another felony. The incident was the fourth home invasion involving gunshots to occur in San Marcos in less than two months. A total of three people have died in these conflicts. Before an Aug. 26 homicide that began the run of crimes, there hadn’t been a homicide in San Marcos since January 2008.

“This is very un-San Marcos,” said San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams. “This is not what we do in San Marcos. I’m at a loss to explain why suddenly we’re having all these rashes of home invasions.”

Responding to a recent Newstreamz editorial claiming that “violent crime is famously increasing in San Marcos,” Williams noted that the trend for 2009 indicated 2.5 violent crimes per 1,000 residents in San Marcos, which would actually represent a decrease from 3.1 per 1,000 in 2008. Citing the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Report, Williams said the violent crime rate in San Marcos has dropped through the years since reaching 4.1 per 1,000 residents in 2002.

“Everybody in San Marcos can rest assured we got it covered,” Williams said. “It’s not like you can come to San Marcos, make a crime and go home and think we’re not going to get you … Despite the headlines for the past few weeks, San Marcos is still a very safe place to live. We have some of the lowest crime rates around … The average law-abiding citizen would not have been targeted in the latest home invasions.”

Williams said the recent rash of home invasions provide no evidence that they are linked together, though, he said, drugs is the common denominator in the intrusions.

“These are not random acts,” Williams said. “(The perpetrators) knew exactly what they were going for. We’re convinced these are not just random acts people are committing.”

Police arrested Nefedov for the home invasion in the 700 block of Oscar Smith Drive after he was released from University Medical Center at Brackenridge in Austin, where he was being treated for gunshot wounds sustained during the unlawful entry.

Police said three residents were inside the home when Nefedov forced entry while armed with a BB gun resembling a real pistol on Oct.21 at around 9:50 p.m. One of the residents in the home fired numerous shots from a handgun, striking Nefedov several times before Nefedov fled away on foot. Shortly after the incident, Nefedov made his way to Central Texas Medical Center (CTMC), where he received primary treatment for gunshot wounds before being transported to Brackenridge Hospital in Austin.

If guilty, Nefedov faces five to 99 years or life in prison. Nefedov is in custody at Hays County Jail on a $10,000 bond. Williams said the matter remains under investigation by the SMPD and the Hays County District Attorney.

Williams said Nefedov sustained three gunshot wounds, one in his hand, one in his cheek, and another in his abdomen, where a bullet was lodged. Williams did not release any names of the residents in the home, citing an on-going investigation, though he said they were two males and one female, all in their early twenties.

On Oct. 20, just the night before the invasion on Oscar Smith Drive, an overnight home invasion resulted in one man being shot and wounded at around 11:40 p.m. at the University Heights Apartment complex. Two San Antonio men, Michael Wilson, 23, and Justin Pickaree, 19, were arrested. Seven people were in the apartment at the time, including two residents and five visitors.

On Sept. 4, four teenagers from Luling broke into a home at 926 Chestnut Street, where three of the suspects were shot. Two of the teenagers died. The fourth suspect, Frank Castro, 17, was arrested and later told police he and the other teens broke into the home in an attempt to steal marijuana from a man Castro identified as “Harry Potter.” In an affidavit, Castro said “Harry Potter” was known for selling large quantities of “dro,” a higher and more expensive grade of marijuana, out of the home.

The teenagers armed with two pellet guns and a Ruger pistol gained entry into the home through an unlocked kitchen door. A resident in the home shot three invaders with a 40-caliber Glock. One intruder was pronounced dead at the scene, and another later died at CTMC. The third invader has since been released from Brackenridge Hospital. Williams said the teen is going through the juvenile justice system.

The two homicides on Chestnut Street were the second and third homicides to occur in San Marcos in 2009. The first homicide of the year happened on Aug. 26 at the Kelsea Place Apartments on 518 Linda Drive. Later that day, San Marcos police arrested 21-year-old Quenten Rashad Taylor of San Marcos and 20-year-old Zackhary Allen James of Luling in the murder of Byron Burse, 30, of San Marcos.

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18 thoughts on “Williams says city safe as police arrest intruder

  1. Looks like he’s been down a tough road and has usually been under the tires. Somebody doesn’t look like that by being nice. Chances are he’s been in more than this conflict and lost.

  2. Jake, I have to disagree. While it clearly does appear that he has been down a tough road, it looks to me as though he was very badly burned; something that can happen to the best of people.

    While I am reluctant to draw any conclusions about his goodness/badness based on the limited details offered about this man, it does make me stop and think about the hand that each of us is dealt in life.

  3. How are these burglars able to invade these homes? Are windows and doors kept unlocked? Are they breaking down the door? We need to do a better job in safeguarding ourselves and our property, especially in today’s sagging economy. There are many home security alarm systems that are affordable where you don’t have to earn a celebrity’s salary to install one. Dummy cameras look exactly like a real surveillance camera without the cost and will deter any predator who is thinking of breaking in your home. Florida may have a conceal-carry gun law, but guns are very expensive, and you need to obtain a legal permit to own one. Non-lethal personal protection devices such as a TASER device, pepper spray, mace and stun guns are affordable and can be very effective in taking a burglar down with no permanent damage.

    By far, the most common threat to our home is burglary. According to the FBI, a burglary occurs somewhere in the United States every 14.6 seconds. The home invasions happening in San Marcos is happening everywhere across the United States. Don’t let these predators turn you into a victim. Turn the tables on them by defending yourself, your loved ones and your home.

  4. I’m not too worried about the recent increase in home invasions. It appears that most of them involve people who knew each other so it’s not just random break-ins. It’s also not surprising if some of those cases involve drugs. I still feel safer in San Marcos than I did living in Houston.

  5. I’m glad the Chief thinks we’re safe even after these crimes have all spurred in only two months. we’re talking about 3 people dead, and two of them teens. It’s kind of serious stuff. I don’t recall the last time we had such violent crimes as these happen in only 2 months. I’m glad to read that violent crimes are on the decrease, though that statistic is only over shadowed by the recent headlines. Something nasty is obviously going on in our safe community.

  6. I think the term “violent crime” might be part of the problem. It is a broad category, which includes assaults. These make up the lion’s share of the crimes – approximately 450 out of 500 of what I believe to be violent crimes (murder, rape, assault), based on the charts in the Year in Review presentation.

    www dot ci.san-marcos.tx.us/departments/police/Docs/08_Year_Review.pdf

    So, murders could be on the rise, but they could be lost in the much larger assault numbers.

    I suspect many of the assaults involve drunks fighting at parties and bars and outside of parties and bars. That is to be expected in a town with a very young population. Those crimes are symptomatic of a very different problem than home invasions and shootings. A decrease in drunk kids getting into fights could mask increases in other areas.

    The Year in Review shows an increase in residential burglaries (approximately 30%). I suspect these are not considered “violent crimes,” unless someone is home and there is at least a threat of violence.

    Also, the assaults in the 2007 Year in Review report are very different than those in the 2008 report:

    www dot ci.san-marcos.tx.us/departments/police/Docs/YrReview%2007.pdf

    If you use the numbers in the 2007 report, assaults are also dramatically increasing (from 300 in 2006 to 350 in 2008). I am not sure why the two reports are so different.

  7. Correction:

    I was only looking at the misdemeanor assault numbers.

    Comparing the total assault numbers, the 2007 Year in Review shows about 350 for 2006 and the 2008 Year in Review shows about 450 for last year.

    That’s about a 30% increase.

    Again, I am not sure why the 2007 and 2008 reports don’t line up.

  8. Statistics don’t matter as much, despite what the Chief says. Perception is reality, and right now these high profile cases are damaging our community’s reputation. The city needs to get busy on damage control. Otherwise, it’ll end up like Seguin, which spent the better part of a decade trying to undo its reputation as “Saigon” because of its streak of violent crime.

  9. I am going to repost this in this discussion because I think it kind of got buried in a fading discussion that is not being viewed. I think what I have to say is relevant to the police discussion.

    While I certainly agree with Billy Moore when he discusses the job and stress of being a police officer, I think Billy gives way to much praise for the way the San Marcos Police Department is operated. Put yourself in Chief William’s position. How would you like to be the CEO of an organization where you have little or no say in who is hired. You have little or no say in who is promoted and every disciplinary action you make is subject to second guess by the Civil Service Commission and the police union.

    A lot of the citizens of San Marcos have no idea of how the police department really works. Mayor Moore describes the police department as a paramilitary organization. A more apt way to look at the our police department would be to compare it to the post office. Hiring is done almost exclusively by testing. The San Marcos Police administration have little or no input into who gets hired. The top testers are hired with very few exceptions. San Marcos Police officers are promoted by taking paper tests. Suppose a position opens up for Sergeant. Everyone in the department below the rank of sergeant can take the promotion test. The person who scores the highest on the paper test gets the job. The Chief and other ranking officers are not allowed to factor in performance, attitude or command ability. If an officer commits an act which, in the Chiefs opinion requires that the officer be demoted or fired, he stands a good chance of being over ruled by the San Marcos Civil Service Commission. The job of the commission is to make sure that every T was crossed and every I was doted. Given the complexity of the Civil Service code, it is almost impossible to not get caught by some gotcha in the code. The Commission will reverse your decision or make you amend your decision and now you, as the Chief, have real discipline problems in the ranks.

    Civil Service does provide some reasonable protection for a police officer from being fired for a political or personal reason. That trade off, should always be combined with a no union provision. Having both a Civil Service Commission and a police union is a invitation to chaos. Just imagine that General Motors had, not only the union to deal with, but a Civil Service Commission. General Motors would have gone broke long before now. San Marcos needs to pick one or the other, we have civil service or we have a police union but not both.

    What we get with our current system is the police demanding a pay raise when the citizens and taxpayers are struggling to stay afloat and keep their jobs or business. This demand would not be so egregious if our police officers were being poorly paid. They are not. Our police are very well compensated at all ranks. It is difficult for a non city worker like myself to make a meaning full determination of the fairness of our pay because other cities will not honestly provide that information and I can not determine the cities pay rate for police by looking at the budget. To make an honest comparison between San Marcos and other cities, we need to look at, not just base pay, but at total compensation. What extra pay do San Marcos police officers receive. I am told that almost every officer in the department, including the command structure of Commanders, is receiving not only over time pay but pay for extra training, responsibilities and training. That means that if you look at the budget and see that a police sergeant makes $60,000, the true number may be much higher. It would be useful if we could get the City Administration to actually provide us with true budget numbers for the police department so the council and citizens could be more objective when discussing police issues.

    Every year the SMPD has a presentation where they outline their production numbers for the last year. I attended one of these several years ago and was astounded when the presentation was given regarding police complaints by the public. Since it has been several years ago, I may not be completely accurate but the numbers were that during the year there had been 5 complaints by the public and none were found to be valid by the internal investigation. First, the low number of complaints tells you right off that something is wrong. In a town where there is so much friction between the students and police, that number should be much higher. Poor people who are mistreated by cops generally are not likely to complain. Students are much more likely to complain when they feel they have been mistreated. Are complaining citizens discouraged from making a formal complaint? Is there some official form that is given out to complainants or are they “just given a talk” and made to think somebody is listening to their complaint? Acceptable police procedure would require that each and every person who wants to make a complaint to the police dept. be immediately supplied with the appropriate form and not dissuaded from filling out the complaint. Then the Chief and City Manager could periodically go over the complaints and determine if there is a problem and if the internal investigation are any more than a cover up. After that experience at the police presentation, I became suspicious of all of their numbers.

    I don’t think any of the above makes me a cop hater. It just makes me a long term witness to San Marcos police problems. I am a realist. I know some excellent San Marcos Police officers. I also know some real problem cops that should not be carrying a badge, yet alone a gun. That is the way it is with most police departments but I think we have more problems than most with our dysfunctional system to manage the department. We have some problems with the way our police dept. operates and letting a police union extract actual or implied promises from Council candidates is just wrong. I think most of the candidates over estimate the strength of an endorsement and money from the police and fire union. Look at the difference in the vote totals between Thompson and Garcia. If the police union had much influence on the voters, those two candidates numbers should have been much closer together.

    The Union just can not deliver that many votes because most of the police do not live in San Marcos. That is another issue for another day but police who do not live where they work are in danger of becoming an occupying force that sees every issue in terms of us against them.
    Charles Sims

  10. Bill Moore had a response to my posting regarding the police dept. To read that reply go to “Editorial: Mixing public safety with politics”

  11. I must respond here, too. Once again, whatever one’s orientation to Charles and his slant on things, he speaks truth and common sense, based on whatever knowledge and experience I have. I, too, am neither a “police groupie” nor a “cop-hater,” and I too believe there are certain givens in “Law Enforcement World,” not always exactly as they are presented in dramatically skewed dramas and street mythology–either neighborhood tales or police tales themselves. Dialogue can help to reconcile them perhaps, but in the end a department usually is able to build esprit and excellence by going only one way– without politics.

    I think Charles’s concern here is that San Marcos may drift toward a “neither fish nor fowl” management model, in which two substantially different systems and their philosophies are used, often in conflict, in an attempt to balance self-determination for officers against strict and often necessary hierarchical lines of command and performance standards. These are complex issues for open, fair dialogue and decision, not just skating along.

  12. Mr. Sims, early in your post you made the statement that many people do not know how the police department works and then went on to make it appear that you do. It’s amazing to me how many self-proclaimed law enforcement experts there are in the world. I didn’t want the readers to just assume that much of what you said were true facts, because much of what you wrote is not factual.

    You said that the police department administration has little or no input into who is hired, and that applicants who score at the top of the list are hired with few exceptions. Both statements are not factual. Each and every hire is ultimately approved or conversely denied by the Chief of Police after a hiring process more rigorous than most in this country. The Chief can pass over any applicant on the list for good cause and does so on a regular basis. Most entry lists at the police partment are exhausted each year in order to fill vacancies. This would not be possible if your statement about hiring only from the top of the list were true.

    You said that every officer below the rank of Sergeant is eligible to promote to Sergeant. That also is not true. Only members of the department who have held the rank of Corporal for at least 2 years are eligible to take the Sergeant’s promotional exam.

    You said that the Chief’s decision to discipline an officer is almost always overturned by the Civil Service Commission, making it difficult for the Chief to impose discipline and maintain order. Again, this is not true. Yes, a discplined officer may appeal formal discipline to the Civil Service Commission. The Officer may also elect to appeal his or her case to an independent arbitrator and leave the C.S. Commission out of the process completely. The one Officer whom I know of who appealed his termination to an arbitrator at the SMPD did not win his appeal. If the Chief and his staff impose fair and just discipline, it will stick and in fact does almost every time.

    You next make some claims about the pay structure at the department that are clearly your opinion and nothing more and are not based in fact. I would encourage you to file an open records request with the city to get the real data surrounding the department’s pay package. The city can and will provide you with the department’s pay scale including all of this extra pay that you claim the officers are making. I think you may be surprised to see the real numbers. Once you get that data, take it and compare it to other progressive cities in Texas and then make a judgement about how well our officers are paid.

    I’ve probably lost most readers by now, so I’ll try to close quickly. Your assertion that civil service and police “unions” should not exist simultaneously makes no sense to me either. Civil service is state law and is mainly concerned with hiring, promotion, and discipline. Meet and Confer, the process entered into between the city and San Marcos Police Officer’s Association deals primarily with pay and benefits, though either side may choose to bargain for certain changes to civil service law. If a contract is agreed upon, those changes would supersede civil service law. Changes like these are usually made to “customize” certain sections of the civil service law to the needs of the city, the community and the department.

    You’re distrust of the department’s self-reported numbers regarding complaints is just that – your distrust of the department. The fact is that the San Marcos Police Department is comprised of fine men and women who make difficult decisions in a moral, just, and ethical manner every day in situations where many people would not.

    Cheers

  13. Dear Get it straight

    I appreciate your taking the time to respond to my post. I suspect that you are a San Marcos Police Officer because your knowledge of the system is far greater than most. It is extremely difficult for a normal citizen of San Marcos to find details of how the system works with out being confused by personal interests which can distort the perception of how the system works. Please don’t apologize for a length answer. To often on these postings, the arguments are too short to flesh out the full details. Or, you have people like O’Dell who throw out short little half truths just to stir up the crowd. You make some very good arguments but you and I are probably never going to see eye to eye on some of these issues because we can both look at the same thing and see different things. Argument, debate and sunshine are good things.

    I received most of my information on how the department operates from Chief Williams. I made an appointment to see him several years ago about what I perceived as a lack of interest and response to some problems I was having at my business. The Chief was frank and open with me or at least I had the impression that he was laying things out to me the way they are. Our conversation only lasted about an hour so some of the items we discussed could be the condensed version and some of my knowledge my be a little off. Those “little offs” do not negate the legitimacy of most of my arguments. If I am completely wrong on this issue, I would appreciate a post from Chief Williams telling me that I am completely wrong about the conversation we had. Chief Williams thought the new “meet and confer” would be an asset to resolving some of the departments structural problems but I am some what skeptical of his optimism. Labor union bargaining is just that. The union will try to get as much pay and benefits as possible and the union will try to get easier work rules and less discipline. Just because a union is made up of police officers does not make it a noble pursuit. In the end, a police union is no different than the Teamsters union.

    I would appreciate it if you would provide us with the definition of “good cause” that is available to the Chief to use in not hiring candidates that are the top scorers. I am sure that includes things like a felon convection but I would assume that applicants with really bad back grounds would have already been excluded from the list the Chief may pick from. Are the applicants on the list given oral interviews with the Chief and the Commanders? Are the applicants on the list scored according to qualifications or is the list just that- a list. What kind of things keeps a person off the list and what kind of things would be good cause to reject an applicant if they have already been finely screened.

    OK, you got me on the Sergeant’s promotion policy. I misstated when I said everyone and should have said everyone who has sufficient time in service and grade. The problem with the requirement that you be a Corporal is the officer got to be a Corporal the same way you get to be a Sergeant. You pass a test. You can be a truly rotten Corporal and get promoted to Sergeant.

    I am going to stand by my assertion that appeals to the Civil Service Commission are almost always decided in the officers favor because of the complexity of the rules. In offering as proof of your assertion, only one officers of your acquaintance is discussed. I would rather you offer some hard numbers on the number of cases and the rulings. One thing that I may have over simplified is that not all that many cases get to the Civil Service Commission. Many of the would be cases are quietly settled by the City because the City Attorney knows that his chance of winning are slim. Your interpretation of ‘fair and just” is decided by your personal view of how things should be. The bosses interpretation maybe completely different. In the civilian world, the boss always wins. That is why I am not completely opposed to having either a union or a civil service commission. Either one can provide the rank and file from protection from politics and unjustified second guessing by the Administration. I think we can agree that in cities where officers are provided no protection, a ticket to a city councilman’s son can end a police officers career. “make difficult decisions in a moral, just, and ethical manner every day “. I completely agree with your above statement. That is why police officers need to be well led, well trained and well disciplined.

    As far as making a Freedom of Information request for total police compensation, you know that is a fools errand. Like most cities, San Marcos uses the Freedom of Information act to hide behind and make as little information as possible available to the citizens. I have a friend who asked the city for a list of everyone who serves of a city board or commission. Even though that is clearly public knowledge, the city required a Freedom Of Information request to produce the information. He filled out the forms and never heard back from the city. So what are my chances of finding out the total compensation of every position on the force. Zero!

    You should not be so defensive about the SMPD. Reasonable criticism is possible without impugning the motives of everyone involved. I think I have presented some valid arguments that should be open for discussion. I think you presented some valid arguments. 30 years ago, a discussion started in this country regarding police professionalism. A lot of those goals have been meet but a lot have not. The most important thing that brings a job to a profession is self discipline. Doctors discipline their own. Lawyers discipline their own. For the most part, clergy discipline their own. Of course you can make lots of arguments that most of these professions don’t do a very good job of self discipline and I would be the first to agree with you. They do make an attempt and are if they have a true looser in their profession, they throw the bum out. The police have gone just the opposite direction. Any criticism is attacked by the union and individual officers as being a distrust of the entire department or a personal insult to every officer. That kind of stuff needs to stop if the police are going to achieve their goal of professional development.

    You would be amazed at the number of people I know who have contacted me since the original post and told me that I am a fool for bring up these issues. There contention is that there will be reprisal from the SMPD. If that many people in San Marcos have that view of the police department, that should tell all the members of the department that they have, if not a real problem, then they have a real perception problem Do you want to live in a city where many of the citizens fear their police?

    Charles Sims

  14. They say you need to walk a mile in someone shoes. Well, people like JAKE obviously are very blind to someone’s past. Jake, try researching Denis and the Grossman Burn Unit. I suggest Google. Denis has lived an extremely rough life and has to live with people’s views such as your’s every single day. Let’s see you live through an appartment blaze, over 75 surgeries, people calling you a monster, your father ditching you after the fire when you are only nine years of age, and let’s see how you turn out.

    I seriously doubt there are many people out there that can even fathum what it is like to be Denis or even live a normal life after what Denis has been through. Hard to get jobs, friends, or even people to see the person passed Denis’s scars. People like JAKE will never give people like Denis half a change, obviously because of the way they think.

    Denis will have to pay for what he has done. There is no doubt about that, But in NO WAY does that give anyone the right to slander an individual for who they think they are without even knowing what that person has been though. I wonder if a person could say such things while looking into the eyes of a single mother.

    Try spending some time under some tires and see how well you fare.

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