Five police officers charged with taking money from cantina owners in exchange for protection and forewarning of enforcement have been dismissed for allegedly failing to cooperate in a subsequent internal affairs investigation.
Only one of the officers, Sgt. Salve R. Ramirez, has appealed the termination, Houston city records obtained by the Houston Chronicle show.
However, the other four are also expected to file appeals. Ramirez, Sgt. Freddie T. Gonzales and officers Rolando Cruz, David A. Gamboa and Javier Gomez will stand trial in March on charges of soliciting money from the owners of cantinas in different parts of the city in exchange for warnings of upcoming raids and for overlooking illegal activity.
Their terminations took effect on Dec. 29. Several of the men's lawyers told the newspaper in Tuesday's editions that their clients had nothing to gain by cooperating with the internal affairs division, which also conducted the six-month undercover criminal investigation of the cantina operation.
Twice, the Houston Police Department gave the officers detailed written questions and 48 hours each time to respond. All five were repeatedly warned they would be fired if they refused to comply.
"They were trying to get him to incriminate himself with slanted and leading questions," said Clint Greenwood, who represents Cruz.
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Lawyers for the officers contend that their clients did nothing more than work extra jobs at cantinas and that HPD policy does not prohibit officers for from being paid in cash by bar owners or any other off-duty employer.