Brownwood Police Chief Virgil Cowin said a law firm’s claim that he knew about allegations against Sgt. Vince Ariaz in 2004, but did nothing about them, is not true.
Cowin said in a written statement Friday that the first time he was aware of the case against Ariaz was about a week before Ariaz was arrested on July 17, 2007.
“The day I was informed about the Vince Ariaz case from Sgt. Troy Carroll, I advised him to conduct a complete investigation to determine if the allegations were true and to work very close with the DA’s office and make sure everything was in order,” Cowin said in the written statement.
“About one week later Vince Ariaz was in the Brown County Jail with multiple charges filed against him.”
Arias was sentenced on May 27 to three concurrent, 20-year prison terms for having sexual contact with two female Brownwood Police Explorer members.
A letter to Brownwood City Attorney Pat Chesser, from attorney Scott Ozmun of Austin, names Cowin, the City of Brownwood and Ariaz as potential defendants if a lawsuit is filed on behalf of an Explorer and her family. Ozmun claimed in the letter that Cowin had known of allegations against Ariaz and told an officer not to write a report or tell anyone else.
Ozmun asked the city to consider negotiating a settlement before a lawsuit is filed. Brownwood City Attorney Pat Chesser has said the case has been referred to the city’s liability insurance carrier, the Texas Municipal League’s Intergovernmental Risk Pool.
Parties to the potential lawsuit are scheduled to have a mediation session in Austin on July 25, Chesser has said.
Cowin was initially contacted by the Bulletin Thursday for comment about Ozmun’s letter. Cowin declined immediate comment but said he would have a written statement.
Cowin brought the statement to the Bulletin Friday morning and declined to address specific allegations against him in Ozmun’s letter.
“Because of the pending lawsuit, that’s as deep as I’m going into it,” Cowin said, referring to his written statement. “The allegations are not true, and that’s as far as I’m going into that.”
“I have never had a lawsuit filed on me in my approximately 48 years of law enforcement,” Cowin said in his written statement. “The primary duty of any peace officer is to protect life and property, and I have done that to the best of my ability.
“ … I knew from the minute that Ariaz was arrested that it would cause embarrassment to the Brownwood Police department and the City of Brownwood. I also knew that a lawsuit would be filed against the City of Brownwood, Vince Ariaz and the Chief of Police, but it was without hesitation that I ordered the investigation the moment I knew about it.
“Over the past 12 years … there have been cases filed against police officers who have committed crimes. Never once has this office hesitated or refused to investigate and prosecute any case.
“During my time as Chief of Police … I’ve always been open with the news media and the citizens. My doors have always been open to the public as well as the department. I’ve always listened and responded to the requests that I’ve received and I plan to continue this practice.”
Arrest affidavits related to Ariaz state that Texas Ranger Nick Hanna learned about allegations against Ariaz in January 2007. Hanna and other law enforcement officials began an investigation at that time.