Carmen William DeCruz was charged by complaint with second-degree felony offense of manslaughter. This charge stems from events that took place on December 2, 2019.
According to the arrest affidavit, on December 2, Officer DeCruz attempted to stop a vehicle in Temple for speeding. Officer DeCruz was operating a marked patrol. He activated his overhead red and blue lights in an attempt to stop the vehicle.
The affidavit says the vehicle did not stop immediately and Officer DeCruz pursued the vehicle. The vehicle approached the intersection of Little River Road and Loop 363.
As the vehicle came to a stop, Officer DeCruz pulled around the vehicle in an attempt to block him and exited his patrol vehicle.
The affidavit said body camera video and dash cam video shows Officer DeCruz walking in front of his patrol car and the suspect vehicle with his duty issued firearm, a handgun, drawn. He made contact with the driver and sole occupant, later identified as Michael Lorenzo Dean.
Officer DeCruz ordered Dena to turn off his vehicle in an attempt to gain control of the keys to the vehicle with his left hand while holding his duty issued firearm in his right hand. The affidavit states Officer DeCruz had the handgun pointed at Dean with his finger on the trigger.
In the video, Officer DeCruz pulled on the keys with his left hand. The affidavit says his right hand also pulls backwards causing the handgun to fire. Dean was shot in the head.
After Dean was shot, the affidavit says the video shows Officer DeCruz pulling Dean from the passenger side of the vehicle. He and other responding officers administered medical aid to him until paramedics arrived.
The Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences determined through an autopsy that Dean died as a result of a gunshot wound of the head. Officer DeCruz's handgun was submitted to the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Laboratory.
On February 2, the Texas Rangers reviewed the report, which stated the submitted GLOCK Pistol is operational with no malfunctions detected during test firing.
Henry Garza, Bell County District Attorney, says the Texas Rangers investigation developed facts and evidence which support the elements of manslaughter.
Lee Merritt, the attorney representing Michael Dean's family, said "The Dean family finds this charge wholly inappropriate given the evidence available in the case."
DeCruz has been taken into custody and a bond has been set at $500,000 by Justice of the Peace Duffield.
Garza says the case will be presented to the Bell County Grand Jury for their review and deliberation at an appropriate time in the future.
The Temple Police Department said they have not received the results of the investigation by the Texas Rangers. Due to the pending prosecution, the department says questions about this case will be deferred to the Bell County District Attorney's Office.
Temple Interim Chief of Police Jim Tobin spoke in a press conference Monday, sending his condolences to the Dean family and thanking them for their patience.
“I would like to give my condolences and regrets to the Dean family. I appreciate their patience during this investigation,” Interim Police Chief Jim Tobin said. “This has been a difficult time for the Dean family and the community. I assured the Dean family from the start that there would be an independent investigation by the Texas Rangers without any influence by our agency, and that has occurred.”
Temple PD says Officer DeCruz will remain on paid leave until he is indicted, at which time he will be placed on unpaid leave. The department says his pay status is required by law and Temple PD does not have discretion to change this.
Temple PD says their internal investigation into the incident began on December 4, 2019. The internal investigation is separate from the criminal investigation. The department says it focuses on violations of Department Policy and Procedures as well as Civil Service Rules and Regulations. The investigation is expected to be completed by the end of February.
Interim Chief Tobin has also requested an after-action review of the department's response to the situation.
“After-action reviews are commonly performed after critical incidents," Tobin said. "It is the Department's goal to perform at a high standard, and to continue to improve our training, safety and service to the community."
25 News Criminal Justice Expert Gene Roberts of Sam Houston State University walked us through what will likely be a complex legal case in the death of Michael Dean.
The District Attorney's decision to move forward with a manslaughter case against Officer Decruz and not murder comes down to intent.
"The difference really is what did the person accused of this crime, did they intend or know? Did they act recklessly and that would lead to a manslaughter charge," said Roberts.
A grand jury will decide whether to indict or not. If so, the case will move forward but not necessarily in Bell County. "The question is going to be whether or not he could receive a fair trial, including have there been threats made? What has media coverage been like? And the judge will have to make the decision to keep it in Bell County or move to another county where the accused could have a fair trial," said Roberts.
Roberts says while an officer on trial does add a different dynamic to the case it is not supposed to change the way justice is served.
"Technically and theoretically, the officer accused of a crime will be treated just like any other defendant," said Roberts.
Manslaughter is a second degree felony and typically can carry a sentence of between two to twenty years in state prison. The Bell County District Attorney hasn't given a timeline of when the case will be presented to the grand jury.