After criminal case dismissal, former Alpine PD officer sues city and police department

Alpine City Hall. Illustration by Crowcrumbs.

ALPINE — Four years ago, a pair of brothers, both law enforcement agents, were indicted on connected crimes involving a young child. Both cases were dismissed last year, and one of the brothers — Hector Holguin, a former sergeant with the Alpine Police Department — is now suing both the department and the City of Alpine for wrongful termination and defamation.

Hector Holguin was indicted in February of 2019 on the charge of official oppression, a class A misdemeanor that entailed removing a child from the mother’s lawful custody. The charge was dismissed in June of 2022.

In the civil suit, filed on February 17, Hector Holguin’s attorney, J.W. Johnson, argues that Holguin was subjected to a “prejudicial attitude and stance” by former Police Chief Robert Martin, who fired Holguin in early 2021. The suit points to a confrontation between Holguin and Chief Martin over Holguin’s possession of an evidence locker as the inciting incident for the firing, but also draws a line from Holguin’s termination back to his indictment on the since-dismissed charge. The suit argues that Holguin should be reinstated to the department, and should receive lost wages plus exemplary damages.

Hector Holguin’s now-dismissed misdemeanor charge was intermingled with the more severe criminal case of his brother, Daniel Holguin, who was indicted in March of 2019 on two felony charges: indecency with a child, and aggravated sexual assault of a child. Court filings indicate the brothers’ charges stemmed from the same incident on November 1, 2018 — when Daniel Holguin was accused of sexually abusing a child, and Hector Holguin, called to the scene in his capacity as a police officer, was accused of unlawfully removing the child from the mother’s custody. 

The charges against Daniel Holguin were dismissed in May of 2022 at the request of Assistant 83rd District Attorney William E. Parham, who cited insufficient evidence following a complete re-intake of the case, including a review of evidence and re-interview of witnesses.

The criminal charge against Hector Holguin was dismissed in June of 2022 at the request of a prosecutor with the attorney general’s office acting as district attorney pro tem. (83rd District Attorney Ori White — who had inherited the case from Wilson — recused himself from the case in 2021, citing the imperative to remain neutral amidst “substantial conflict” between the local law enforcement agencies involved.)

“Per the Texas Ranger, the facts of this case do not warrant criminal charges,” reads the motion to dismiss, submitted by Assistant Attorney General Joshua Somers. “Per the Texas Ranger, the facts of this case involve a matter that should have been handled administratively.”

According to the civil suit, Hector Holguin received a call on November 1, 2018 from his brother Daniel, who was involved in domestic disturbance and requesting that Hector assist in a civil standby in his capacity as a police officer. When he arrived, Hector removed a child who was witnessing the altercation from the scene into the supervision of the child’s grandparents. According to the suit, a deputy with the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office received permission from his supervisor to approve the child’s removal.

The suit goes on to state that then-District Attorney Sandy Wilson took issue with the handling of the incident, saying Child Protective Services should have intervened instead, and launched an investigation. At the end of that investigation, the suit alleges, Wilson presented a “one-sided version of the event” to a grand jury by excluding certain witnesses, leading to an indictment. 

When reached for comment, Wilson said she “gave the grand jury every bit of information” when presenting the case.

“They’ve heard all the evidence because I gave them everything, and they made that decision to indict him,” said Wilson. “And that’s what the grand jury does. You give them the case and they indict or they don’t indict.”

Neither Wilson nor the district attorney’s office are named as defendants in the civil suit, though the filing goes on to accuse Wilson of “publicly impugning” Holguin’s reputation and “verbally slandering” him. The district attorney is not an agent of the City of Alpine, but is an employee of the State.

Still, the suit seems to draw a line between Wilson’s stance and that later exhibited by the Police Chief who fired Holguin, though that connection is not fully explained. Holguin’s attorney, J.W. Johnson, did not respond to a request for comment seeking clarification.

Following the indictment, then-Chief of Police Russell Scown placed Holguin on paid administrative leave, per the suit. Robert Martin, the chief of police who would later fire Holguin, took over the role a few months later, in November of 2019. The suit states simply that “a change was made in the office of the City of Police, which put [Holguin] into contention with the district attorney and Robert Martin.” 

The suit then recounts, in vague terms, an incident involving the new chief that took place in January of 2020, in which Chief Martin questioned Holguin about the presence of an evidence locker in Holguin’s office. The next day, Martin told Holguin he was being suspended without pay and hired a Texas Ranger to investigate whether Holguin “had committed a crime involving the contents of the evidence locker.”

Then-Assistant District Attorney Jerry Phillips declined to bring charges against Holguin as a result of the investigation, the suit states.

Chief Martin fired Holguin on February 22, 2021, and informed the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement that Holguin had been dishonorably discharged — a designation later reversed by the State Office of Administrative Hearings.

The suit states that Martin “adopted the same prejudicial attitude and stance toward the Plaintiff as that exhibited by the District Attorney, despite Plaintiff being innocent until proven guilty.”

When reached for comment, Alpine Police Chief Darrell Losoya, who took over the position in September of 2021, said he was unaware of the lawsuit and so was declining to comment. Alpine City Manager Megan Antrim said the same. “This is the first I have heard or been made aware of a lawsuit against the City of Alpine,” Antrim wrote in an email. “At this time, I would have no comment.” When asked whether he would like to provide comment on behalf of the city, City Attorney Rod Ponton stated simply, “No comment.”

Editor’s note: Updated 3/3/23 to provide further clarification on the lawsuit’s connecting Holguin’s 2018 indictment with his eventual termination.