Two uniformed Johnson County deputies were providing security at a horse track when it was raided Saturday on suspicion of unlicensed racing and betting, Sheriff Bob Alford said Tuesday.
The deputies, who were working off duty with permission, have been temporarily suspended, pending an internal investigation of their actions and the investigation into the track, Alford said.
The track is a longtime training facility for quarter horses on County Road 417, southeast of Cleburne, Alford said.
The raid was conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety’s criminal investigations division, said Sgt. Lonny Haschel, a DPS spokesman. A dozen Johnson County deputies participated in the raid, Alford said.
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A DPS undercover operation had been going on for several months at the track, Alford said. Spectators had reportedly been placing bets among themselves, which is illegal without a license, he said.
Alford added, however, that the deputies working security said they didn’t know it was illegal for spectators to bet among themselves.
“In talking to them, they had no idea anything was illegal,” Alford said. “There’s no betting booth or tent set up where you can place bets.
“Were they crooked? I don’t think they’re crooked. But, we’re still doing an internal investigation.”
Alford said he knew he had deputies working security at the track while the DPS was conducting its undercover operation. He said he didn’t pull them out because he was concerned that would alert the people under investigation.
Two men were arrested Saturday on suspicion of violating the Texas Racing Act, a third-degree felony, Haschel said.
Property owner William C. Barton, 60, of Cleburne, and the man leasing the track, Rogelio Garza, 61, of Alvarado, were released Sunday morning with bail set at $5,000 each, Alford said.
The sheriff said he will meet with his command staff to review off-duty security jobs “and what we’re doing with them.”
“There are so many of them,” he said of the off-duty opportunities. “But I didn’t drive out there to take a look at that place, so the buck stops here. End of story.”
Racing venues such as Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie have licenses.