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SOCORRO, Texas — The Socorro Police Department is investigating after the police chief resigned in the wake of a controversial traffic stop involving the city manager’s son.
Socorro Mayor Elia Garcia announced the internal affairs investigation at a Monday afternoon news conference in city council chambers.
Last week, Socorro Police Chief Carlos Maldonado resigned amid questions regarding the release of the city manager’s son during a traffic stop earlier this year.
Garcia would not say if the investigation is focused on the traffic stop or a possible leak of police dash camera video and police documents regarding the case.
“We are limited at what we can disclose at this time to preserve the integrity of this investigation,” Garcia said.
Garcia was joined at the news conference by City Manager Adriana Rodarte and new interim chief Jasiel Muñoz, a Socorro police sergeant.
The city council will decide the process to find the next police chief, Socorro city spokesman Victor Reta said.
Maldonado, who had been the police chief since 2014, resigned unexpectedly and without explanation last week.
“Unfortunately, the chief submitted a very brief letter where he did not state a reason in his letter of resignation,” Garcia said. “It was very sudden, so we were not expecting his resignation.”
Garcia asked residents for patience saying that questions would be answered once the investigation was complete.
Maldonado’s submitted a two-sentence resignation letter to the city manager, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the El Paso Times in an open records request. The letter is dated March 6.
In the letter, Maldonado stated: “Please accept this correspondence as my letter of resignation effective March 12, 2018. This will include annual leave and a personal day.”
The controversy stems from a Jan. 20 traffic stop involving the city manager’s 21-year-old son, Diego Salais, who was released to her custody.
The Socorro Police Department issued a statement on Thursday saying that the city manager never asked for preferential treatment when he son was stopped.
On Jan. 20, police pulled over Salais at 3:35 a.m. on North Loop Drive near Inglewood Drive.
According to the statement, a police officer suspected Salais was intoxicated but a field sobriety test found Salais was likely not intoxicated. The officer saw possible indications of drug use. No drugs or alcohol were found in a search of the vehicle.
The Socorro Police Department said that Salais was not charged based on the officer’s findings and was released to a responsible party.
In February, Channel 26-KINT reported Rodarte’s son was released to her custody after the station obtained police dash camera video and documents in the case.
KINT reported it had “confidential police documents” stating that Rodarte’s son was allegedly driving under the influence.
On March 1, a Socorro city news release stated that the video footage had “not been released by an open records request and the obtainment of these documents is being questioned.”
In a follow-up news report on March 5, Maldonado told KINT that there was no political pressure to release the city manager’s son.
Maldonado submitted his resignation a day later.
Daniel Borunda may be reached at 546-6102; firstname.lastname@example.org; @BorundaDaniel on Twitter.
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