SAPD lieutenant fired, sergeant suspended for leaving shifts early the night Melissa Perez was shot, killed

SAN ANTONIO – The fallout continues from the June shooting death of a woman by San Antonio Police Department officers.

An SAPD lieutenant has been terminated and a sergeant has been suspended seven days after each of them left their assigned shifts early the night Melissa Perez was shot and killed inside her Southwest Side apartment, discipline records obtained by KSAT Investigates show.

Lt. Steven Velasquez, a 30-year veteran of SAPD, was handed an indefinite suspension Dec. 11 after an internal affairs investigation determined he had left work around 10:14 p.m. on June 22, more than four hours before his shift was scheduled to end.

Velasquez failed to respond to the fatal police shooting scene, despite being the highest-ranking member assigned to the south patrol service area, his discipline paperwork states.

Perez, 46, was experiencing a mental health crisis and had a hammer in her hand when police shot her through a patio window and door in the 6200 block of Old Pearsall Road, SAPD officials previously said.

The shooting occurred around 2 a.m., prior to the end of Velasquez’s assigned shift, records show.

Velasquez appealed the indefinite suspension on Dec. 13, records obtained by KSAT show.

In the rebuttal, an attorney representing Velasquez claimed the lieutenant had been relieved of duty for the night by SAPD Sgt. Paul Rodriguez, a supervisory officer with the authority to do so.

“SAPD has a past practice of more than 30 years of permitting a supervisor to leave early on his or her ‘Friday,’ at shift change if he is properly relieved by a supervisor,” Velasquez’s attorney, Ben Sifuentes, told KSAT via telephone Friday. “There is no proof that Steven violated any rule or procedure. It is clear that he was properly relieved.”

Sifuentes shared with KSAT a text message purportedly sent by SAPD Chief William McManus to Velasquez, offering to allow Velasquez to serve a five-day suspension and then retire.

“Serving this suspension before retirement will entitle you to an honorable discharge upon your separation from the Department,” the text message reads.

SAPD officials Friday did not respond to an email from KSAT asking if McManus had offered the reduced suspension.

Rodriguez was suspended seven days after an internal affairs investigation determined he left his assigned shift 45 minutes early, around 1:44 a.m., the night Perez was shot and killed. The 22-year veteran of SAPD was seen changing out of his SAPD uniform into civilian clothes and leaving the substation in his personal vehicle less than 20 minutes before Perez was shot, records indicate.

Both Rodriguez and Velasquez were cited for rules violations, including neglect of duty.

Three San Antonio Police Department officers were indicted by a grand jury last month in connection to Perez’s death.

Officer Eleazar Alejandro and Sgt. Alfred Flores face a charge of murder. Officer Nathaniel Villalobos faces a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

All three men are scheduled to appear in court Jan. 29, court records show.

Indefinite suspensions for Flores and Villalobos were finalized Dec. 6, city discipline records show.

A release of SAPD suspension records this week did not include any files regarding Alejandro’s status with the department.

All three officers were suspended without pay in late June, after the shooting occurred.

Read more reporting on the KSAT Investigates page.

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