Donna chief says politics at root of his termination

Gilbert Guerrero

It was politics, not a dereliction of duty that led to his termination as Donna police chief, Gilbert Guerrero said.

The chief spoke with The Monitor just hours after the city released a memo announcing Guerrero had been fired because he had impeded an investigation into a school threat on the same day that the Uvalde massacre claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary.

“I didn’t stop the investigation. It still continued. I never said to stop,” Guerrero said emphatically.

“It was a political move. It was a political firing, no matter what,” Guerrero, who is considering taking legal action, said via phone Monday.

But according to interim City Manager Frank Perez, the now-former police chief reacted lackadaisically when one of his investigators notified him during a May 24 meeting that there was a potential threat of violence brewing at Donna High School just hours after the Uvalde massacre.

“Unfortunately, the ex-chief did not act upon those threats and in fact, ordered his officers not to pursue the anonymous caller’s tip(s),” Perez stated in a memo released Monday afternoon.

Reached by phone Monday evening, the interim city manager was even more emphatic about the chief’s lack of action and denied that politics fueled Guerrero’s firing in any way.

“This is a serious issue. This is above politics. This is something that I had to determine on my own,” Perez said.

“The investigation that I did speaks for itself,” he continued a moment later.


Perez said he collected five affidavits from ranked officers who had been in the room that day during a meeting that was punctuated by several casual conversations and breakfast tacos.

Perez said four of those affidavits corroborate his assertions that Guerrero reacted improperly to the potential threat — a threat that eventually proved true and resulted in the arrest of four people and the confiscation of an “AK-47” and body armor.

That’s the first time Donna officials confirm an AK-47 was confiscated, confirming a previous Monitor report that cited a source. But Guerrero contends that the majority of those affidavits support his version of events.

“I have three people there (say) that I never gave that statement. He’s lying. It’s politically motivated,” Guerrero said.

What is certain is that an investigator received a tip about a shooting threat to Donna High School. That investigator informed Guerrero during that May 24 meeting, in the presence of others.

The investigator, Det. Adrian Hooks, also informed the chief that school district police had allegedly told him they were busy with a hurricane preparedness event taking place at the time.

Shortly thereafter, Hooks went to the school to interview students himself, where he determined the threat to be credible.

Hooks then returned to the Donna police station and informed the chief about the legitimacy of the threat, and the chief told Hooks to continue investigating.

What remains uncertain is what Guerrero told Hooks after that first notification of the threat, but before he went to the school.

The interim city manager alleges — and some of the affidavits seem to corroborate — that Guerrero told Hooks to let the Donna ISD Police Department handle the issue since it involved the school district.

“Chief Guerrero stated that it was ISD Traffic… and multiple conversations continued while people ate tacos,” reads an affidavit signed by Capt. Juan Garcia Jr.

“A few moments later… Det. Hooks approached me and said he was worried about the threat and that (Donna) ISD PD did not take his tip with urgency. … I advised Det. Hooks to investigate the matter, but he was concerned he would get in trouble since it was a Donna ISD PD traffic,” Garcia further stated.

But another statement, signed by Juan Gonzalez, the former San Juan police chief whom Guerrero referred to as a “political consultant,” appears to corroborate the chief’s version of events.

“I can attest that the Chief of Police, Gilbert Guerrero did not make such a statement,” Gonzalez said in response to the allegation that Guerrero told Hooks not to investigate.

“No one in that discussion was ordered not to investigate or share information with school district police,” Gonzalez further stated.

A message left with Hooks was not returned as of press time.


Guerrero said the threat incident has been used as leverage to fire him in an act of political retaliation for refusing to hire an assistant police chief with close ties to a member of the city council.

“(It’s) politically motivated by David Moreno and it all comes back to when I refused to hire Frankie Limon as assistant chief,” Guerrero said.

Both Moreno and Limon worked at the Donna school district — Moreno currently works as an administrator, while Limon served as a Donna ISD police officer until his appointment as assistant chief.

Guerrero alleges Limon is not qualified to serve an administrative role within the department and that his refusal to hire the man led to his suspension in March.

When The Monitor tried to inquire about the suspension during a city council meeting last month, Guerrero — who has previously granted several interviews with the newspaper — said he had been ordered by the city manager not to speak to the press.

Perez denied the allegation, instead saying it’s city policy for employees to direct all media inquiries to him or the personnel director.

Guerrero said he spent one week on suspension with pay.

But when asked Monday evening what had prompted Guerrero’s suspension, Perez directed The Monitor to file a public information request.

For his part, Councilman Moreno denies he directly or indirectly pressured Guerrero to hire Limon. He also disputes being involved in Guerrero’s firing, though he supports Perez’s decision to do so.

Instead, the councilman points to the seriousness of the allegation that Guerrero failed to act on the school shooting threat.

“That’s inexcusable, ma’am. People that are defending the chief and what he did, they’re defending something that is indefensible,” Moreno said.

Meanwhile, the city council has called a special meeting for Thursday afternoon. The first item on the agenda is to consider reinstating Guerrero as chief.

“One of the councilmen by the name of Oscar Gonzales, he wanted me to bring him back and I said no. So that’s why he put that item on the agenda,” Perez, the city manager, said about the agenda item.

Moreno invited Donna residents to attend the meeting so they can “see why they (council members) are willing to take the chance and risk the lives of kids… listen to these people that they voted for and listen to where their thoughts are at.”