Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Officer Jesus Cisneros Accused of Drunking While Still on Duty Before Crash

An off-duty Fort Worth police officer who officials say was drunk when he crashed his city vehicle into another car in December, killing a mother of two, had started drinking while still on duty, an internal investigation has found.

Jesus Cisneros drove his city vehicle, a Toyota Highlander, to three bars from 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 10 and consumed up to three beers as part of an unauthorized undercover bar detail, according to documents filed with the Civil Service Commission.

Lt. Paul Henderson, a police spokesman, called Cisneros' actions a "gross violation of policy."

The documents say that after completing the bar detail, Cisneros, then off duty, drove to a birthday party at The Pour House, where he drank about four more beers and four shots of alcohol, according to surveillance video obtained from the bar by investigators.

About 2:25 the next morning, Cisneros was driving the Highlander west in the 3800 block of Columbus Trail at more than twice the posted speed limit when he collided with a PT Cruiser trying to turn in front of him, officials have said. The Cruiser's driver, Sonia Baker, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Tests on blood taken soon after the wreck indicated that Cisneros had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.17, more than twice the legal limit.

Cisneros resigned Dec. 21. Police officials, however, took the additional step of suspending him indefinitely — tantamount to firing — so that the sustained allegations would be included in his civil service record, Henderson said.

The indefinite suspension took effect Feb. 18.

"Because he resigned, it closes any potential loophole for him being able to get his job back in Fort Worth," Henderson said.

The allegations

According to the documents, the investigation found four allegations against Cisneros: that he consumed alcohol on duty without necessary supervisory approval; that he drove a city vehicle off duty without authorization; that he was intoxicated while off duty; and that he drove a city vehicle while impaired and in such a manner that resulted in the fatal crash.

Cisneros, who remains free on bail, was charged Feb. 10 with intoxication manslaughter.

Jim Lane, Cisneros' attorney, was out of the office Wednesday and did not return a message left with his staff seeking comment.

Sonia Baker's widower, Mario Baker, referred questions Wednesday to the Noteboom law firm.

Mike Freden, one of the attorneys for Baker's family, said Cisneros' actions were "sickening."

"With each additional fact, his behavior is becoming more and more outrageous," Freden said. "It highlights that there were so many people along the way that could have stopped him from going out there and killing her. It's tragic. We're going to continue to go after every one we possibly can to get justice for Mario and his boys."

Henderson said an investigation of whether any other officers violated department policy while celebrating with Cisneros on the night of the crash is nearing its final stages.
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