FW Cop in Fatal Wreck Had Checkered Record

Officer had history of alcohol-related problems, records show

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    Greg Janda
    A Fort Worth police officer accused of killing a woman while driving while intoxicated had a checkered disciplinary record involving accidents, alcohol and driving his unmarked city car while off-duty, according to city documents.

    A Fort Worth police officer accused of killing a woman while driving drunk had a checkered disciplinary record involving alcohol, crashes, and driving his unmarked city vehicle for unauthorized personal use, according to city documents.

    Officer Jesus Cisneros was charged with intoxication manslaughter after the city-owned Toyota Highlander he was driving collided with a car driven by Sonia Baker. The 27-year-old mother of two was killed. Police said Cisneros had been drinking with other officers before the crash and was legally drunk at the time of the late-night collision.

    Cop's Record Shows History of Alcohol-Related Problems

    [DFW] Cop's Record Shows History of Alcohol-Related Problems
    A Fort Worth police officer accused of killing a woman while driving drunk had a checkered disciplinary record involving alcohol, accidents, and driving his unmarked city vehicle for unauthorized personal use, according to city documents. (Published Friday, Jan. 22, 2010)

    Cisneros drove the city vehicle as part of his undercover work as a narcotics officer, but was not authorized to drive the vehicle while off-duty, police said.

    Cisneros, who resigned following the Dec. 11 crash, was suspended for 20 days in 2006 after he admitted he was "very intoxicated" and fired his pistol out of the sunroof of a moving car on State Highway 121 near Hurst and, on a separate occasion, drove his city vehicle to an Arlington bar.

    The city released Cisneros' disciplinary records Friday after they were requested under the Texas Open Records Act.

    "I committed the dumbest thing I've ever done in my career," Cisneros wrote about the gun incident. "I reached in the glove box of the vehicle, pulled my backup weapon out of its holster and -- holding it with one hand -- I stuck it out of the vehicle's sunroof and shot one round into the sky. It's hard to describe the reason what I did. I wasn't angry.. but I was frustrated and very intoxicated."

    Cisneros said he regretted what he did.

    "I know this incident could have hurt, or God forbid, killed someone," he said. "I take full responsibility for my actions that day."

    Later, in a disciplinary hearing, Cisneros admitted he had problems with alcohol and said he was getting counseling in church.

    "When I go out I like to make everybody happy, continue drinking and I don't know when to say no sometimes," Cisneros said, according to a transcript of the hearing.

    He begged then-police Chief Ralph Mendoza to keep his job.

    "This job means the world to me," Cisneros said. "If I get fired, I don't know what I'd do. I swear if you give me a chance I will clean myself up forever."

    He also admitted violating department policy by driving his unmarked car to an Arlington bar off-duty and driving a woman home afterward. He was pulled over at about 3 a.m. by a Mansfield police officer for driving too slowly but was not cited or arrested.

    In the disciplinary hearing, he admitted he should not have driven the city car while off-duty.

    "I know that is wrong 'cause of other officers that have told me stories what have happened to them," he said. "They've crashed, they've hit...They've gotten fired. And I know not to do that."

    A captain and deputy chief recommended he receive an indefinite suspension, which is tantamount to firing, but Mendoza gave him a 20-day suspension and ordered him to undergo alcohol counseling. He was later transferred from narcotics to the traffic unit.

    "You've got a lot of potential to ruin your life and your career and us, because every time you screw up it reflects on us," Mendoza told him.

    A few months later, in September 2006, he was suspended for four days after he crashed his patrol car into another police cruiser -- his fourth crash in five years. All the crashes were preventable, city records said.

    Supervisors praised his work as a narcotics officer, and he also received several commendations, the records show.

    Cisneros has not commented publicly following December's fatal crash.

    An attorney for the victim's family criticized police for not firing Cisneros in 2006.

    "It's repulsive he was still on the force," said the attorney, Mike Freden. "Clearly he had a horrible alcohol problem. They sent him to counseling. Counseling didn't work. He jumps in a city vehicle and causes this death. It's horrible."

    A Fort Worth police spokesman said discipline practices have changed.

    "We will learn from the past where the line is drawn," said Lt. Paul Henderson.

    The department has previously acknowledged that Cisneros and about 15 other officers were drinking in a bar before the fatal wreck. An investigation is expected to be completed in April.