A San Antonio police officer arrested last week on a charge that he assaulted a young woman at a community swimming pool had been accused of misconduct at least twice before, according to documents obtained by the San Antonio Express-News.
Detective Keith Alfaro — a 10-year member of the force assigned to investigate property crimes — was suspended without pay in April 2003 after his supervisors found some merit in two allegations of wrongdoing, both of which involved a pair of brothers who claimed they had been mistreated, threatened and pushed by the officer.
Detailed in a 186-page file obtained this week is a portrait of an officer who was accused of using his badge to intimidate the brothers. But the Civil Service records also depict a man whose annual reviews consistently showed a promising and talented young officer, every year deemed as meeting or exceeding the department's standards. He also was recognized on at least three occasions for using what his bosses termed "good use of police tactics."
Still, the July 22 incident, in which Alfaro is accused of beating 18-year-old Tamara Vaughan at a pool in their neighborhood while off-duty and as his family looked on, led to a news conference in which Police Chief William McManus acknowledged other "dealings with him in the past," though he said he would not characterize the officer as one with a "troubled past."
But those incidents, which took place in October 2002, led to unpaid suspensions totaling six days, of which Alfaro served two. He was also suspended for three days in December 1997 after a crash six months earlier on Austin Highway in which he was found partly at fault.
Those incidents, however, did not prevent the officer from earning promotions. He was made a detective last year, according to the department. And an expert said Tuesday that three suspensions over a decade of policing wouldn't necessarily raise any red flags.
"You're talking a few instances," said Geoffrey Alpert, criminologist at the University of South Carolina. "But the bottom line is there are systems in place where someone would question an officer if he's been suspended multiple times (and) they relate to each other."
Alfaro could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Edward Shaughnessy, declined comment Tuesday.
But Teddy Stewart, president of the city's police union, said he has talked several times to Alfaro in the days since his arrest on charges of second-degree aggravated assault and resisting and evading arrest.
"He was in shock, scared and didn't know what was going to happen," Stewart said, referring to a phone call he received from Alfaro after Bexar County sheriff's deputies arrived at his house to arrest him.
Stewart said the details of the July 22 incident are one-sided and that Alfaro "has a completely different opinion" about what happened when Vaughan approached him and asked him to put out a cigar he was smoking. Stewart would not explain further.
Vaughan also has alleged that Alfaro, 35, used a racial slur and attacked her sexual orientation. She has accused him of punching and choking her at the Village of Trinity Oaks homes community pool, near Loop 1604 and U.S. 281.
Because the incident happened while Alfaro was off-duty, police officials declined last week to comment on the details, saying only that an internal probe was launched into the officer's actions.
Vaughan's allegations came nearly five years after Alfaro was accused of striking a man in the chest with his forearm, causing the man to fall backward. This was after the man had called to report a burglary at his apartment.
Later, Alfaro allegedly told the man, whose brother said he witnessed the October 2002 incident, that the "only thing that's saving me from kicking your ass or killing you is that you are in your house," according to a sworn statement from the man that is in Alfaro's personnel file.
During an internal probe of that allegation, Alfaro denied threatening the man but said the man accused him of acting "bad" because he had a badge and gun and that he told him it was "the badge that was keeping him from getting his ass kicked." Alfaro said he used his "open right hand and a stiff right arm" to move the man because he was blocking a doorway.
Alfaro agreed to a one-day unpaid suspension, reduced from the five days his supervisors had considered.
Later that month, the officer had another run-in with the brothers, one of whom had given Alfaro an alias. Alfaro sought a warrant for his arrest for filing a false name, and the man was detained about two weeks later. At the scene, Alfaro allegedly called him a "wuss," which Alfaro denied.
The man's brother, who lived nearby and witnessed that incident, accused Alfaro of throwing him against a rail. Alfaro denied pushing the brother, but said the two struggled while he tried to arrest him. The brothers filed a formal complaint, and Alfaro was suspended without pay for five days, of which he eventually served one.
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