For nearly seven years, Brownwood Police Sgt. Vince Ariaz led the Brownwood Police Explorers Post, an organization for youth that teaches about law enforcement.
The 17-year officer was arrested Tuesday morning, accused of having sexual contact with a 15-year-old female Explorer. Officers from multiple agencies secretly watched Ariaz and the girl at the Brownwood Coliseum Annex and arrested him at 6:25 a.m. after seeing an offense, law enforcement officials said.
Ariaz, 53, was booked into the Brown County Jail on a charge of sexual assault of a child, jail records state. Justice of the Peace Bryan Thompson magistrated Ariaz Tuesday afternoon and set bond at $250,000.
Texas Ranger Nick Hanna, the lead investigator, said authorities “are looking into other allegations.”
Ariaz, who ran for police chief in 2006, has been “indefinitely suspended” from the police department, Brownwood Police Chief Virgil Cowin said.
“Needless to say, this is not a happy time of my life,” Cowin said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the Law Enforcement Center.
“It is not a happy time for the Brownwood Police Department. … This is a very serious thing involving one of our city policemen. It’s a bad time for us, a bad time for the Brownwood Police Department and a bad time for the city of Brownwood.”
Officers had conducted surveillance on Ariaz, who had gotten off duty at 6 a.m., before the arrest. The girl was unaware of the investigation, police said.
“There were numerous officers that were involved in the investigation and did witness the offense,” police Sgt. Troy Carroll said. “At the time we made contact with the suspect, he was totally unaware of our presence, and when we made contact he was absolutely shocked.”
Carroll said he began getting information about three weeks ago from numerous people about possible misconduct on an officer’s part. He said he took the information to Texas Ranger Nick Hanna, and the two began an investigation with the help of the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, the West Central Texas Interlocal Crime Task Force and the Texas Department of Public Safety Motor Theft Division.
Cowin and other police officials did not reveal Ariaz’ identity at the press conference because he had not, at that time, been charged. A short time after the press conference, however, Ariaz was booked and magistrated, and sheriff’s officials and Thompson confirmed his identity.
Cowin began the press conference by reading from a prepared statement saying officers from the agencies conducted a “joint extensive criminal investigation involving surveillance and intelligence gathering.”
Cowin offered his thanks to the agencies who assisted. Carroll said the investigation would have taken months without the cooperation of those agencies. “We all worked together as a team,” Carroll said.
Hanna said the police department “saw the problem and they aggressively worked with me. I want to stress the police department recognized they had a problem. I think they took appropriate action.”
Ariaz was born and raised in Slaton and attended criminal justice training at Western Texas College, according to information from his campaign in the 2006 election.
He began his law enforcement career as a reserve officer with the Slaton Police Department and then went on to work with the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Department, the Slaton Police Department, the Colorado City Police Department and the Brownwood Police Department.
Ariaz was awarded the Explorer Post Advisor of the Year for 2004 from the Texas Law Enforcement Explorer Advisor Association out of Dallas.