TRINITY COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Trinity County Sheriff Woody Wallace says that Lufkin Police Department violated the law when they conducted an undercover investigation of an Apple Springs club in his county without proper notification.
"When they called dispatch to tell us they were coming, we said we have an officer in Apple Springs that could meet you," Wallace said. "He never said where they were going exactly or what they were doing."
Several times throughout the phone call from LPD, they told dispatch they wanted to inform officers that they would be in the area serving an evidential warrant stemming from an arrest made the previous night in Lufkin.
Larry McCauley and Catherine Proutt were both charged with felony engaging in organized crime, Class A misdemeanor keeping a gambling place, Class A misdemeanor gambling promotion, and Class A misdemeanor possession of gambling equipment or paraphernalia.
"I wasn't there to read the search warrant when it was issued, but I did read it after, and it stated that they had lots of things they were looking for," Wallace said. "Various records, financial records, phone calls, but to my knowledge none of those things were seized, just the four machines."
Wallace said he learned of this undercover investigation when we reached out for comment following the announcement from LPD of the seizure, and arrests.
"What brought this to my attention was when your news agency contacted me, and said, 'Hey do you have any comment at the raid at the Steelhorse,' and I'm like what are you talking about?'" Wallace said. "I don't need surprises from other agencies coming in here and not telling me what they are doing. It's not legal; the law is very clear about doing investigations outside your jurisdiction, and this is not Lufkin's jurisdiction."
Wallace said his agency has conducted many successful joint investigations with other agencies in the county, and wants to know why LPD did not follow the same policy when crossing into his county.
"it leaves the public to open up speculation in their minds, and say why would another agency not trust another law enforcement agency to come talk to them and tell them what they are doing?" Wallace said.
Wallace is now questioning if LPD is in violation of the Attorney General ruling DM 077 that states a sheriff must provide proper authority prior to the investigation. LPD responded with the following statement.
"DM-077 which is a Dan Morales opinion refers specifically to warrantless arrest situations. Our case was with a warrant from a district judge which is an entirely different issue. A district judge is not going to authorize an illegal search. Our officers' actions in Trinity County last week and the previous month were legal and correct. It is not uncommon for our officers to engage in criminal investigations in surrounding jurisdictions. In this case, Sheriff Wallace has expressed his displeasure with our officers' action in his jurisdiction. Notification was made to the Trinity County SO before our officers arrived to seize the illegal gaming machines. These machines were thought to be evidence in the organized criminal activity case that our officers are investigating in Lufkin and surrounding areas. The warrant authorizing the seizure of this evidence was signed by a state district judge. I have sent Sheriff Wallace my assurance that Lufkin PD officers will not engage in future enforcement action in Trinity County, excluding emergencies."
Wallace said before further action is taken he hopes to understand where the miscommunication happened and what they can do to ensure it doesn't happen again.
"You have to work together with other people. You cannot go outside your jurisdiction and start investigations no matter where they stem from and expect to be open arms after its done," Wallace said.
LPD told us they agreed to sit down and have a conversation with Trinity County officials in the near future.