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Chris Wilson back as BCSO reserve deputy

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

With all the brouhaha bandied about recently regarding a part-time hire by Bandera County Treasurer Billie Reeves, another former employee has seemingly slipped in under the radar.
Christopher Wilson has been appointed as a reserve deputy with the Bandera County Sheriff's Office, according to Chief Deputy Richard Smith. In 2008, Sheriff Weldon Tucker terminated Wilson. In an interview with the Bandera County Courier at that time, Tucker said he discharged Wilson for "dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming an officer and failure to further investigate a reported crime."
Failed to take action
When confronted with four possibly intoxicated youths, Wilson failed to take appropriate action. Later that same evening, the quartet was killed in a one-vehicle accident.
On the evening of Nov. 3, 2008, while on patrol, Wilson was going through the drive-thru window at the Sonic in Bandera when employee Keri Flores informed him, "I just wanted to tell you that the guys in that black truck are highly intoxicated and should not be driving. The passenger has an open container. The driver hit the sign."
According to Flores, the deputy glanced at the black Ford pickup truck and replied, "I'll call the city officer."
At 10:19 pm - almost 20 minutes later - Wilson informed Bandera former Police Officer Brian Chmylak about the quartet of possibly intoxicated youths at the Sonic, saying, "There's a black truck at Sonic that has intoxicated males inside and they hit a sign."
In his incident report, Chmylak noted, "I asked him why (he hadn't done) something about it and he did not answer."
However, the pickup with its four occupants had disappeared by the time the city officer arrived at the Sonic and he could not locate it. Later, while taking pictures and statements from Sonic Manager Raymond Clift and Flores about the driver's earlier collision with the sign, Chmylak received a radio call about a vehicle that had hit a utility pole just past Alkek Elementary School on Highway 173 South.
At Wilson's request, Chmylak reported to the crash scene. While assisting with traffic control, Chmylak noted the license plate of the pickup truck involved in the fatal one-vehicle rollover as the one given to him by Clift.
At midnight, Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Lynn Holt pronounced Randall Lee Collins, 20, of Watauga; Tyler James Lewis, 21, of Pipe Creek; Clayton Dean Oliver, 17, and John David Gaddis, 16, both of Bandera, dead at the scene.
'His duty to act'
In the interview given directly after the incident, Tucker said Wilson had offered no explanation for failing to intervene in a potentially dangerous situation.
"It was his duty to act," Tucker said. "At the very least, he should have held the vehicle and its occupants until the city officer arrived. I think it was just plain laziness on his part."
After Wilson's immediate supervisor, Deputy Gerald "Jerry" Johnson, wrote him up for the trio of procedural errors, former BCSO Chief Deputy Don Berger terminated the patrol deputy. Wilson appealed his dismissal to Tucker, the department's elected official.
Regarding the appeal, Tucker said, "I upheld Chief Deputy Berger's decision. Wilson did not act according to what we are taught and he did not follow procedure."
To date, no lawsuits have been filed against Bandera County or the sheriff's department related to the four deaths.
Open records request(s)
As a result of a Texas Open Records Act request, on Tuesday, Feb. 8, the Courier received a copy of Wilson's F-5, termination of license holder notice. Under general discharge, it was noted that Wilson had been terminated for "administrative violation(s) not related to truthfulness or insubordination." The violation or a copy of the policy or rule not adhered to was to have been attached to the F-5 document. Under the Texas Open Records Act, the Courier has requested copies of the required attachments.
The dereliction of duty charges against Wilson that led to his 2008 termination weren't the only problems he encountered while serving with the BCSO. During his short stint as investigator, Wilson allegedly threatened a witness with arrest after she attempted to correct what she described as errors on one of his investigative reports.
According to the witness's affidavit, Wilson, who was unwilling to alter his report, threatened to arrest the witness for making a false statement, or, as he purportedly, put it, "lying to me again."
At the request of the witness's attorney, former Bandera County Attorney Kerry Schneider investigated Wilson's violation of Texas Penal Code, Sec. 29.03, Official Oppression. However, ultimately Schneider's investigation ground to a halt when Wilson and witness Lt. Allen Tucker denied the allegations.
Sheriff not involved?
After his termination, Wilson worked with the Nixon Police Department, according to reports. However, aside from his reserve duties with the BCSO, he is not now employed as a fulltime law enforcement officer. BCSO holds Wilson's law enforcement commission.
When asked about the procedure for hiring Wilson, Smith said that an Oral Review Committee comprised of Johnson, Sgt. Danny Bowermaster, Sgt. Shane Merritt, Jail Administrator Terry Green, Jail Capt. Cary Berger and Emergency Dispatch Director Dana Hutcherson had interviewed all applicants and forwarded their recommendations to him. "I acted upon their recommendations, which included appointing Chris Wilson as a reserve deputy," Smith said. The chief deputy administered the oath of office to Wilson in December.
For his part, Tucker disavowed having anything to do with Wilson's reappearance. In an interview on Jan. 20, he referred questions about Wilson's appointment to Smith, noting, "I had nothing to do with it. I'm not on that committee anymore. The county didn't rehire him. He's just a reserve deputy and won't get paid."
However, a source close to the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, reported that the sheriff had essentially ordered Smith to appoint Wilson.
When asked about the claim, Smith reiterated, "Wilson was appointed a reserve deputy on the recommendation of the review committee." He noted, however, that Wilson has not been on patrol in Bandera County since his December appointment.
According to Texas statutes, as a county elected official, Tucker is considered a "final policymaker" and, as such, ultimately makes the final decision regarding officers who serve in his department.