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Police confirm cleaning victim's car after officer-involved shooting

Posted at 7:27 PM, Dec 17, 2019
and last updated 2020-12-01 12:18:52-05

TEMPLE, TX — The Temple Police Department confirmed they cleaned bodily fluid off a seat in Michael Dean's vehicle after he was killed during an officer-involved shooting December 2.

Temple PD explained that on December 5, after receiving Dean's vehicle back from the Texas Rangers' investigation, they made the vehicle available to the Dean family. The department explained it was then the department was asked by the Dean family to not clean the vehicle.

On December 6, the Temple Police Department decided to clean part of Dean's vehicle anyway, saying it was out of respect for the family, as its contents may have been found disturbing.

The Dean family's attorney, Lee Merritt, Esq., explained that same day, he and the Dean family sent a spoliation letter to the city to ensure all evidence be persevered. Merritt says this wiping of a seat could be problematic.

"I mean, this is an ongoing homicide investigation, so you don't clean evidence or destroy evidence out of respect for the family. That's dangerous," said Merritt.

The Dean family and their lawyer intend to have an independent forensic expert investigate the vehicle and its contents, though Merritt explained he hopes procedures were followed by the Temple Police Department.

"What they're saying is that within the first or second day of this investigation, after this murder, they wiped this vehicle down. Even that I find problematic, but you know what? There's a protocol in place for when you make a change to a significant piece of evidence, like the vehicle where the shooting happened, and I'm hoping that they followed that protocol," said Merritt.

Cody Weems, the Media Relations Specialist for the Temple Police Department, gave 25 News the following statement:

On December 5, 2019, the Texas Rangers released Michael Dean’s vehicle and key to the Temple Police Department. Mrs. Dean was contacted the same day and informed the vehicle was available to be returned. Our detective unit asked if they wanted the department to clean the vehicle and Mrs. Dean indicated she did not want the vehicle cleaned. On the morning of December 6, 2019, the department felt that returning the vehicle with blood on the front passengers seat would be insensitive, so the blood was cleaned off the seat. On December 6, 2019, the Dean family and Mr. Merritt met with Chief Tobin. During this meeting, Chief Tobin reminded the family that the vehicle was available for return. Mr. Merritt asked if the vehicle was in the same condition and was informed that the front passenger seat was cleaned. Mr. Merritt then advised that he did not want the vehicle touched any further as he had planned to have the vehicle processed by an independent forensic examiner. Mr. Merritt requested that the Temple Police Department maintain possession of the vehicle until he could make arrangements for the vehicle to be picked up. The vehicle remains in the possession of the Temple Police Department in a secured garage awaiting Mr. Merritt to arrange for the vehicle to be picked up.
Cody Weems Media Relations Specialist Temple Police Department, TX