Prosecutors dismiss remaining charge against ex-SAPD officer in latest setback for DA’s Civil Rights Division

SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County prosecutors on Friday dismissed the lone remaining charge against a fired San Antonio police officer, informing the court they could not meet the burden to prove the case.

The dismissal of the charge of assault causing bodily injury against Carlos Castro is the latest setback for the Bexar County District Attorney Office’s Civil Rights Division, which was created in 2020 to investigate shootings and possible uses of excessive force by law enforcement officers.

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The dismissal came on the eve of a hearing that was scheduled Monday in the 379th District Court to determine if prosecutors intentionally concealed evidence in the case, Castro’s attorneys confirmed to KSAT.

“If our motion, stating misconduct by the District Attorney’s office, was without merit, the state would have fought it. Instead, they finally admitted they could not meet their burden. What they have discovered, on the eve of the hearing, we have known the entire time,” said Nico LaHood, Castro’s attorney.

Prosecutors had already significantly reduced the charge against Castro

The dismissal comes amid a four-and-a-half-year legal ordeal for Castro, who along with fellow SAPD officer Thomas Villarreal, was accused of beating a man after kicking in the door of his East Side home in January 2020.

The officers were terminated later that year for excessive force and then eventually indicted by a grand jury in December 2021 for aggravated assault by a public servant, a first-degree felony.

But their trial in October resulted in a mistrial after attorneys for the two officers learned three expert witnesses for the state had stated during pretrial interviews that the officers were constitutionally justified in arresting suspect Eric Wilson, and were justified in entering Wilson’s residence and searching his car.

Late last year, after the mistrial, prosecutors dismissed the charge against Villarreal, after prosecutors determined there was insufficient evidence in the case.

Castro was reindicted late last year on a misdemeanor charge of assault causing bodily injury, a steep reduction from the felony aggravated assault by a public servant charge he previously faced.

His attorneys then asked the judge to bar the prosecution from moving forward in the misdemeanor case since the mistrial occurred after a jury had already been picked and heard evidence.

Castro and Villarreal, both cleared of criminal wrongdoing, will now seek reinstatement to SAPD through arbitration, an attorney representing both officers confirmed to KSAT on Monday.

Future of Oscar Cruz Jr. case still up in the air

Attorneys for a third ex-SAPD officer, Oscar Cruz Jr., have filed a similar motion in his case accusing the DA’s office of withholding evidence that would have set their client free.

Cruz, while on duty in March 2020, was called to the 9500 block of Five Forks for a report of two teens pulling on vehicle door handles.

Fired SAPD officer Oscar Cruz Jr. during his trial in January. (KSAT)

Cruz tried detaining one of the juveniles who ran away from him. During the chase, Cruz pulled out his service weapon and fired two shots toward the suspects, records show.

The officer was later fired and then indicted in early 2022.

After a jury had been seated for Cruz’s deadly conduct-forearm trial in January, however, prosecutor Daryl Harris, the head of the DA’s Civil Rights Division, revealed that he had just learned the minors Cruz was accused of firing his gun at had pending criminal cases in juvenile court.

Defense attorney Jason Goss speaks at the bench during the trial for Oscar Cruz Jr. in January. (KSAT)

Courtroom footage showed Cruz’s defense attorney Jason Goss admonishing Harris for not checking his witnesses’ criminal histories prior to the start of the trial.

Jay Norton, another attorney for Cruz, told KSAT they learned one of the minors admitted to assaulting Cruz while previously being interviewed by investigators.

“Their witness committed a second-degree felony against Oscar Cruz and we didn’t know that until after the jury was selected,” Norton told KSAT earlier this year.

Cruz was granted a mistrial just as the trial was getting underway.

His attorneys have asked for a hearing to determine if evidence was intentionally withheld, but no date has been set, his attorneys confirmed to KSAT.

The DA’s office did not respond to an email seeking comment Monday.

District Attorney Joe Gonzales previously told KSAT he was confident Harris and the Civil Rights Division had not deliberately hid evidence in the cases.

Read more reporting on the KSAT Investigates page.

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