Arrested Fort Worth police captain alleges retaliation

A Fort Worth police captain who was arrested in December on accusations that he assaulted his wife — but was never formally charged — says he was the victim of racially motivated retaliation by the police chief.

Capt. Duane Paul, who has since retired from the department, turned himself in Dec. 27 on a misdemeanor assault warrant obtained more than a month after his wife had summoned police to the couple’s Fort Worth home, accusing her husband of assault.

Paul has never been formally charged, according to court records, and this week officials with the Tarrant County district attorney’s confirmed that he won’t be.

In a telephone interview, Paul said he was not surprised about that because “there was never an assault.” He alleges that he was the target of retaliation by Police Chief Jeff Halstead.

“No white officer would be treated the way that I’ve been treated in both the criminal and administrative investigations and how this has been handled,” Paul said.

Halstead and Detective Mike Carroll, the lead investigator in the criminal case, deny Paul’s accusations.

“We did not go to Duane’s house because it was Duane Paul, a black captain with the Police Department,” said Carroll, a member of the special investigations unit. “We responded because she called the police regarding an altercation between she and her husband and our job is to investigate that allegation.”

Court records show that Paul filed for divorce from his wife, Johana Herrera, the week after the alleged assault and that it was granted Feb. 14. The two have since reunited, Paul said.

Herrera declined to be interviewed.

Halstead denied having any vendetta against Paul, pointing out that he had promoted Paul to captain — a rank he had been demoted from under Police Chief Ralph Mendoza after he was caught by a Cheaters television crew meeting a woman at an Arlington park.

He was on duty and in his city-owned vehicle when caught on camera.

Halstead said that most of his executive staff recommended against the promotion but that he believed Paul’s past shouldn’t overshadow the good he had done since.

“Duane is very smart. He’s incredibly creative in how he wanted to address our crime suppression strategies and I think think he deserved a shot at promotion,” Halstead said. “So why would I extend myself in support of him and then turn around and do this?”

Paul’s claims come a week after Sgt. Roy Hudson, president of the Fort Worth Black Law Enforcement Officers’ Association, called for Halstead to be fired, saying he has “irreparably harmed the careers of many minority officers.”

Hudson’s comments followed the release of a report on an outside investigation into grievances filed by three black officers. It found no hard evidence of racial discrimination in the department but noted instances of hostile and harassing behavior.

The alleged assault

Police officers had previously refused to release details of the alleged assault. But a full police report, released to the Star-Telegram on Wednesday through an open-records request, says Herrera alleged that Paul assaulted her during an argument Nov. 21 over a trip she’d taken alone to California.

“She said that she was both emotionally and physically hurt,” the report says. “Johana did have 2 small red marks on the left rear side of her her neck.”

Paul told officers that he never assaulted his wife and would be willing to take a polygraph. He said that the couple brushed past each other and that he used his shoulder to nudge past her, the report says.

He told officers that he did not believe his wife took the California trip alone and that the two had argued that day because his wife took his car keys, leaving him stranded at home.

“Johana admitted that she took Duane’s keys so he couldn’t leave the house. Duane believes that Johana called the police today because he told her Monday that he planned to meet with a divorce attorney next week,” the report says.

No arrest was made that night.

Delays in case

Paul said that if an assault had occurred, state law and police policy dictate that officers should have arrested him that night.

“I was not arrested on the night of the incident because there wasn’t an assault,” Paul said. “They knew it was simply a he said, she said.”

Carroll said Paul was not arrested initially because Herrera reported the allegation days later and because Paul denied assaulting his wife and said he was willing to take a polygraph.

“We decided she’s not under any threat, he’s moving out, he said he’ll take a polygraph, so let’s give him a chance to take a polygraph to see,” Carroll said. “Let’s not jump to conclusions … let’s investigate it.”

But when Paul later refused to take a polygraph, Carroll said, investigators brought Herrera in for a detailed account. She alleged that during four days after her trip to California, Paul slapped, choked and scratched her neck as he grabbed her hair and pulled her to the ground.

Herrera also gave consent to investigators to search her cellphone. In the hundreds of text messages exchanged between the couple while Herrera was in California and upon her return, Paul accuses his wife of being with another man in California, repeatedly calls her a “whore” and tells her that the marriage is over.

Carroll said the text messages, and the marks on Herrera’s neck, corroborated her account. He said there was a delay in getting the arrest warrant because Herrera repeatedly changed her mind on whether to pursue the case.

“That was what the delay was,” Carroll said. “It has nothing to do with the chief.”

Paul said he changed his mind about the polygraph on the advice of his attorney.

He said that police could have gone forward with the case sooner, with or without Herrera’s cooperation, and that the warrant was issued only after an anonymous letter was circulated, questioning the chief’s appointment of a supervisor over a specialized unit.

Paul said Halstead wrongly believed he had sent the letter.

“He was telling everybody there was nothing to the charges. They said that from the very beginning until the time they received that letter,” Paul said. “That’s when everything changed. At that point, it was ‘we’re going to get him at all costs.’ ”

Expanded investigation

Carroll said the criminal case was submitted to the district attorney’s office Jan. 14. Tarrant County court records show that Paul was never formally charged.

Carroll said investigators inquired about the case’s status last week with the DA’s office and learned that Paul would not be charged.

“I understand their position. If you have a case and your victim is not going to cooperate or help you in any way, what do you do?” Carroll said.

Paul alleges that police have long known that the case would not lead to charges. When that became clear, he said, investigators used several months’ worth of text messages downloaded from his wife’s phone to begin investigating him administratively on allegations of harassment and acts showing a lack of good moral character.

“It was more than a witch hunt,” Paul said. “It was much more than a witch hunt. … Halstead was going to fire me no matter what. He was going to find a way to get an indefinite suspension one way or the other.”

Halstead said that the internal affairs investigation initially focused on the domestic violence allegation but that the captain over that unit recommended expanding it after reviewing more than 600 pages of text messages between Paul and his wife and seeing “conduct that was extremely shocking to him as well as the investigators.”

“It wasn’t until I read the content of these conversations back and forth that I agreed with them,” Halstead said.

Halstead declined to elaborate on the text messages, except to say they included “threats, assaults and extremely embarrassing conduct alleged by the wife.”

Paul said his wife never complained to police that she felt harassed by the text messages and said investigators “manufactured and contrived the two allegations” against him.

“They’re acting as the morality police when it’s convenient for them,” Paul said.

Paul retired before the internal investigation was complete. He said he did so because “Halstead was on a vendetta to get me” and he didn’t want to endure a long fight to keep his job when he was already eligible for retirement.

He said he has an appeal hearing set next month before the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to fight for his general discharge (given to officers who retire while under investigation) to be changed to an honorable discharge.