Corpus Christi officer accused of violent streak runs for mayor of Robstown

A second assault case against a South Texas police officer running for mayor has been in limbo for nearly two years and like the first is unlikely to move foward. 

Senior Officer Tommy Eli Cabello Cabello, 44, has been with the Corpus Christi Police Department for more than 20 years. He and Lily Garza are running to unseat Robstown Mayor Mandy Barrera in the Nov. 7 election. 

The statute of limitations for the latest allegation against Cabello — who is running on a platform of “restoring faith in Robstown” — will expire weeks after Robstown’s new mayor is announced. District Attorney Carlos Omar Garcia told the Caller-Times he plans to let the two-year statute of limitations run out on the misdemeanor assault case. He cited information brought to light  that weakened the case but declined to elaborate on what that evidence was. 

“At this point in time were holding on to (the case) so that if it needs to be reevaluated then it can be,” Garcia said. 

Cabello referred all questions to his attorney, Terry Shamsie. Shamsie said the allegations of Cabello being the aggressor in the latest incident aren’t true and there is evidence of that though he didn’t provide it. 

“A recording of a conversation between one of the witnesses and the alleged victim shows the allegation was manufactured,” Shamsie said.  

Garcia, who is the district attorney for Jim Wells and Brooks County, was appointed more than a year and a half ago to prosecute the case against Cabello. That was after two other district attorneys passed on it. Then Nueces County District Attorney Mark Skurka recused himself because several of his employees knew Cabello. Garcia said Nueces County District Attorney Mark A. Gonzalez, who was elected in November, also declined to handle the case. 

Gonzalez, a career defense attorney, represented Cabello in 2010 when he was accused of assaulting his current wife and sister-in-law at his Robstown home. A grand jury indicted him on a felony charge of tampering with evidence. But he was later cleared of that charge after it was discovered the home’s security cameras ran only a live feed to a monitor. Prosecutors also dismissed two misdemeanor assault charges citing insufficient evidence and prosecutorial discretion, court records show.

Back then, Gonzalez said Cabello had been confident that he would have been acquitted had the cases gone to trial, but he was glad it didn’t go that far. 

“He wants nothing more than to be reinstated and for his name to be cleared,” Gonzalez told the Caller-Times in 2010. Gonzalez could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Cabello was cleared of the criminal charges related to family violence but then Corpus Christi Police Chief Troy Riggs suspended him for 30 hours because of a verbal altercation with Robstown police when they used a warrant to search him home. He waived his right to appeal the suspension and apologized for his conduct, according to reports. 

“I just didn’t think his actions were appropriate for a police officer at the time,” Riggs said in 2010. “He accepted responsibility.”

In the latest case in 2015, Cabello was accused by three witnesses of assaulting then-Rio Bravo Police Chief Juan J. Davila on Thanksgiving Day.

Cabello’s then-ex-wife, her sister, and a family friend, accused Cabello of instigating a jealousy-driven fight, according to police reports.

Cabello was accused of showing up uninvited to a Thanksgiving family gathering in Robstown. Witnesses told police Cabello pushed Davila, a cousin of Cabello’s then-ex wife, onto a bench and then proceeded to choke him, according to the reports.

Cabello was never arrested though officers did try to book him that night. The Corpus Christi Police Department put Cabello on modified duty following the incident, according to reports. Modified duty includes administrative work. An internal affairs investigation prompted by the incident resulted in a 30-hour suspension of Cabello due to a “major rule infraction.” 

Neither Davila nor Cabello disputed a physical altercation took place, but Davila claimed self-defense and so did Cabello.

As he was being processed at the Robstown Police Department, Cabello told officers he had been hit over the head with a beer bottle during the altercation, resulting in a knot on his head. None of the witnesses corroborated his claim, according to the report. The supervising officer at the scene states in his report Cabello refused to allow officers to visually confirm the injury, provide a written statement and declined that photos be taken of it.

Davila declined medical attention at the scene but officers noted his injuries — bruising to his right eye, redness, and swelling throughout his face — in their reports.

Officers at the scene also noted Cabello’s shirt was ripped and that he had redness to his chest and shoulder area along with a cut to his elbow, according to police reports. 

Cabello was taken to a hospital after he continued to complain about a head injury, according to the report.

It’s unclear if the medics at the scene recommended he be released, said Robstown Interim Police Chief Albert Stout. The police report states “medics checked (Cabello) and then stated to (police) that his vitals were all good.”

If Cabllo had not continued to verbally complain about the injury, he would have been booked in at the Nueces County Jail following the incident, Stout said. 

The detainment never led to Cabello’s arrest because of this. An ER doctor told police Cabello would stay there overnight.

“Cabello and his sealed property were then released and placed into (Christus Spohn Hospital Memorial) care, pending charges due to the unknown amount of time he would be staying at the hospital,” Zamora states in his report.

Garcia, the district attorney who has the case, said he thinks Cabello should have been arrested that day. Still, he said that’s a far cry from it holding up in court.

“I think there was enough for an arrest,” Garcia told the Caller-Times. “I think they had enough information to get to that point. To take it past that, I’m looking at it beyond reasonable doubt standpoint and how the evidence now will be used in court.”

The strongest pieces of evidence against Cabello were the witness statements, one of which has since been brought into question, Garcia said.

Garcia said he made an attempt to reach Davila shortly after being appointed to prosecute the case but to no avail. He yet to reach him, Gacia said. 

Davila could not be reached for comment for this story. 

One of the witnesses provided new information that contradicts initial statements provided to Robstown police, which further weakened the case against Cabello, Garcia said, declining to identify the witness.

“(The witness statements are the strongest) but also causes the most conflict,” Garcia said. “Everyone says it happened just a little bit different.”

One of the Robstown officers who responded to the scene of the 2015 incident unsuccessfully sought to have Cabello removed from a city board.

The officer filed a grievance with the City of Robstown earlier this year saying Cabello’s encounters with Robstown police over the years have shown he’s unfit to serve on a committee that reviews grievances from Robstown employees. It’s called the firefighters’ and police officers’ Civil Service Commission.

City officials declined to identify the officer. 

“I believe the criminal incidents that Cabello has encountered with the Robstown Police Department are sufficient for (a) high probability for future situations to be handled unfairly. The actions that Cabello engaged in … are questionable of moral character, which is also a requirement to be a member of the Civil Service (Commission) board,” the grievance states. “Most importantly, Cabello’s decision (authority) for incidents regarding public servants of Robstown cannot be evaluated in a manner that will prove equality and fairness, after the unfortunate encounters he has had with the Robstown Police Department.”

The grievance went nowhere. 

Only a felony indictment would have automatically removed Cabello from the board, said Robstown chief administrator/city secretary Herman Rodriguez. Cabello was appointed to that board in August 2015 — a few months before the assault incident — and his term expired this past August.  

 

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