Owens to be reinstated, investigation continues

Published 8:00 am Saturday, March 18, 2017

Veteran Port Arthur police officer Maj. John Owens is no longer on administrative leave and will be reinstated on Monday, according to a press release from the city.

Owens will then be reassigned within the department.

He is one of five officers that were named in an affidavit alleging wrongdoing within the department.

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Det. Elie Van Horn, citing the Texas Whistleblower Act filed the affidavit against other officers in the department. His sworn, notarized affidavit told of issues ranging from obstruction or retaliation and misuse of official information to official oppression involving five fellow officers.

The affidavit signed Feb. 17 was obtained through an open records request to the Texas Department of Public Safety and names Deputy Chief Raymond Clark, Deputy Chief John Owens, Sgt. Scott Gaspard, Sgt. Kris Boneau and Det. Mickey Sterling.

Gaspard resigned his position in late February and Clark retired. Owens, Boneau and Sterling are on administrative leave as the Texas Rangers review the allegations of misconduct to determine if a criminal investigation is warranted. The findings will be presented to the Jefferson County District Attorney for review upon completion, DPS Sgt. Stephanie Davis with the Beaumont office media and communications office, said in an email.

Risa Carpenter, public information officer for the city, could not comment regarding the investigation.

The affidavit contends that Gaspard and Sterling “intentionally set out to retaliate against a citizen, whose family member is missing and has not been found. Once this citizen came forward to make a formal complaint after almost a year of no action by the police or true investigation.”

The allegation further states both officers worked to discredit and intimidate the citizen going so far as to obtain a search warrant with the intent to uncover what the complainant/victim knew was an improper relationship that could have directly affected Gaspard’s personal life.

Van Horn told of a false investigation where the citizen’s cell phone was searched for child pornography and none was found and that Gaspard reportedly commented that he believed the citizen had killed her loved one. Instead, the cell phone showed the citizen had never stopped looking for her loved one — to the point of obsession and having hiring a private investigator and turning to a psychic for help.

The affidavit goes on to state that Gaspard had developed a relationship with the psychic that the citizen had found out about that relationship.

An internal complaint was made by the citizen about the cell phone search and that complaint was made to Boneau, who was assigned to the Internal Affairs Division. Boneau is accused with closing the internal affairs case and not investigating the incident.

The affidavit further contends Gaspard and Sterling obtained personal, restricted information on people using a special law enforcement search engine. They allegedly used the information they found to discredit “anyone who thought differently than them or was not going along with their ways.”

Some of the focus of the alleged database searches included Port Arthur City Manager Brian McDougal and Port Arthur Police Chief Patrick Melvin.

It was also stated that Owens and Clark participated in or failed to stop the actions.

Van Horn also alleged “ouble dipping” where officers were collecting double pay and favoritism.

The report of the alleged wrongdoings was also made to the Texas Rangers and the DA’s office and the specific complaints go back as far as June 2016.

They were also reported to the interim chief Weldon Dunlap, Melvin and McDougal.

“There are many good police officers in the Port Arthur Police Department and they all deserve to work for a law enforcement agency that displays professionalism and ethics as its core value,” Van Horn stated.