The Texas deputy who tased a 16-year-old asylum seeker at a government-funded shelter has been placed on administrative leave, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.
The announcement came a day after Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting published body camera footage of the incident as part of an investigation into federally sponsored shelters turning over migrant children to law enforcement.
In the footage of the May 2020 incident, which Reveal obtained through a public records request, Deputy Patrick Divers can be seen arriving at the Southwest Key Casa Blanca shelter in San Antonio. Staff there had called 911 after the boy, who had fled Honduras at age 15, refused to go to class and had broken some bed frames and storage bins.
Divers didn’t request evidence of the child’s alleged wrongdoing at the time, according to the footage. The deputy didn’t attempt to have his orders translated into Spanish by the bilingual shelter staff, nor did he tell the boy that he was under arrest. He ordered the teen in English to stand up and turn around. The child showed no signs of fighting back or resisting arrest. Divers then shot the boy with his Taser and repeatedly pulsed the weapon on his torso and thighs, shocking him for 35 seconds, the footage shows.
Divers, a 27-year veteran of the department, couldn’t be reached for comment for the investigation.
The Sheriff’s Office has continued to deny Reveal access to a number of documents that would help the public better understand what happened. For months, Reveal has sought a copy of a use-of-force report that Divers and his partner, Deputy Harold Schneider, would have ostensibly had to file after the tasing. We have also requested the department’s use-of-force policy to understand whether the deputies’ actions were allowed. (We found that the department had already submitted an unredacted version of its use-of-force policies as part of an unrelated lawsuit and published the chapter in full online.)
What’s more, as we prepared to publish this investigation, a Sheriff’s Office sergeant requested that we destroy the video, arguing that he never should have released it to the public because it involves a juvenile.
On Wednesday, officials went a step further in their attempts to keep the information from Reveal.
The Bexar County district attorney’s office issued a letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, seeking a ruling against releasing additional records. In its letter, the district attorney’s office contends that “release would interfere with law enforcement and prosecution” because it would give criminals sensitive information on how law enforcement operates.
The district attorney also noted that the sheriff had requested that Reveal destroy the video footage. Reveal will not destroy the video. There is a strong public interest in its airing. The child’s grandmother told Reveal that she wants the video to be published so the public knows what can happen in shelters for migrant children in the United States.
Additionally, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Democrat who represents San Antonio, called for a federal inquiry into what happened.
“I am urging a full investigation by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of this incident, and also the Department’s policy with respect to the use of local police and a review of refugee shelter’s employee training and trauma-informed care practices,” he wrote in a statement.
Reveal’s investigation has found that over the last six years, shelters have discharged at least 84 migrant children, ages 11 to 17, to local law enforcement. Additional records for 19 of the children indicate many children were arrested over allegations of fighting and property damage. Only one was arrested for a felony, and prosecutors didn’t pursue charges in that case.
Southwest Key’s Casa Blanca shelter is funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. A Southwest Key spokesperson declined to comment on Divers’ leave, saying it is a law enforcement matter. The federal refugee agency did not respond to requests for comment about Divers’ placement on administrative leave.
Aura Bogado can be reached at email@example.com, and Laura C. Morel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow them on Twitter: @aurabogado and @lauracmorel.