TEMPLE, Texas —
It all began in Temple on Dec. 2. An officer-involved shooting was reported at the intersection of Little River Rd. and SE HK Dodgen Loop.
Little to no information was given to the public. The only thing confirmed on the day of the incident was that the Texas Rangers started an investigation.
On Dec. 3, police identified 28-year-old Michael Dean as the man who was shot. Around 1:30 a.m, Christine Dean, Michael’s mother, said an officer told her the news. That was about five hours after the shooting happened.
The same day, the family told 6 News they didn’t know what led to the shooting and they were looking for answers. The Temple Police Department released a statement that said it could not release any details under direction from the Texas Rangers.
The Dean family held a press conference at the Bell County Justice Center on Dec. 6, calling for transparency in the case. Temple PD held their own press conference that same day and said the department understood the desire for answers. Interim Chief Jim Tobin said he made a commitment to Dean's parents to update them when information became available.
On Dec. 10., Temple PD released the officer’s name who was involved in the shooting. Carmen DeCruz has been with the department for nine years and has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting.
The Temple branch of the NAACP protested Temple PD’s response to the shooting the next day and later marched to the police department.
On Dec. 12, the Texas Municipal Police Association issued a statement that said in part:
“In emotionally charged times, there is a demand for fast answers, but investigations take time. We ask everyone to allow the Texas Rangers to do their job and await their findings.”
On Monday, there are still no official answers or updates in the investigation. Sgt. Washko of the Texas Rangers said each case is different and they want to be thorough for all parties.
On Dec. 17, 6 News was told the vehicle was released to the Temple PD on Dec. 5 from the Texas Rangers. The Texas Rangers documented the vehicle and processed it as evidence.
Temple PD said they notified the family that same day that the vehicle was available. They also said Merritt requested the Temple PD hold onto the vehicle until they were ready to pick it up.
Police said they met with the family and their representative on Dec. 6. Lee Merritt said their records show they met on Dec. 7.
According to Merritt, he issued a formal request for the vehicle to be kept in its condition on December 10th.
According to Temple PD spokesperson Cody Weems, the Temple PD detective unit asked if the family wanted the department to clean the vehicle and they said they did not want it to be cleaned.
One seat, which had blood on it, was wiped down with bleach because it may have been upsetting to the family to see, according to Weems. He also said that this practice is “pretty typical” and is decided on a case by case basis. In this case, it was decided by Temple PD personnel to wipe the seat down.
On the morning of Dec. 6, the department felt that returning the vehicle with blood on the front passenger seat would be insensitive, so the blood was cleaned off the seat, according to Weems.
The Dean family and Merritt met with Chief Tobin that same day. During this meeting, Chief Tobin reminded the family that the vehicle was ready for return. Merritt then asked if the vehicle was in the same condition and was told that the front passenger seat was cleaned.
Merritt then said that he did not want the vehicle touched any further as he had planned to have the vehicle processed by an independent forensic examiner. He asked that the Temple PD keep the vehicle until he could make arrangements for the vehicle to be picked up.
Weems said he knows that the car has not yet been picked up and at the time of cleaning, Temple PD did not know that the family wanted to conduct their own forensic investigation.
Weems said there is still evidence in the car that can be used for forensic analysis, even the seat because it was wiped not scrubbed clean.
Lee Merritt, who is representing the Dean family, told 6 News that they did actually tell Temple PD there wanted to do their own investigation and to keep the car in it’s condition. Merritt said they are waiting until their expert can retrieve it.
The vehicle is still in possession of the Temple PD.