National News

Deputy Accused of Molesting 4-Year-Old and Threatening to Deport Her Mother

Posted June 18, 2018 2:54 p.m. EDT

A sheriff’s deputy in San Antonio was charged with felony assault Sunday after being accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl for at least several months, the authorities said, and threatening her mother with deportation if she reported him.

On Saturday night, the girl’s mother decided to take her daughter to a local fire station to report the deputy, Jose S. Nunez, after the girl “made an outcry” about the abuse, officials said at a news conference on Sunday. Nunez, 47, was arrested around 3:30 a.m. Sunday and charged with super aggravated sexual assault of a child, a first-degree felony because of the girl’s age, said Javier Salazar, the Bexar County sheriff.

“The details of the case are quite frankly heartbreaking, disturbing, disgusting and infuriating, all at the same time,” Salazar said at the news conference.

Nunez was suspected of touching the girl inappropriately on numerous occasions at her home in recent months, Salazar said, but he added that investigators were looking into whether the alleged abuse could have lasted several years. It caused the girl physical pain, including “some indication of minor injury,” the sheriff said.

Salazar said that Nunez and the girl were related, but it was not immediately clear how.

Authorities believe that Nunez used his position in law enforcement to maintain the alleged abuse. The girl’s mother entered the United States without authorization from Guatemala, Salazar said, information that Nunez used to “place the mother in fear that she would be deported” if she spoke out, Salazar said.

“We believe that there was some hesitation on the part of the witness to report the conduct because of the fact that she’s undocumented in the country,” he said, adding that he did not know yet whether the girl was also unauthorized to be in the country.

Law enforcement officials have long expressed concern that undocumented people and even lawful immigrants are afraid to report crimes out of fear that they could be deported or separated from their children. Police chiefs and victims’ advocates have said that reluctance to call the police or cooperate with the authorities had increased under President Donald Trump, who has ordered immigration authorities to step up the targeting and arrest of those in the country illegally.

Salazar echoed that concern on Sunday and said that the mother did the right thing to report the alleged abuse.

“Folks like this are creatures of habit and opportunity,” Salazar said, referring to sex offenders. “I don’t know if he was purposefully targeting the undocumented community, but what appealed to him certainly was the vulnerability of the community.”

Investigators were also looking into whether there could be additional victims, he said.

For the past 10 years, Nunez worked as a detention officer at the Bexar County jail in San Antonio. He was being held there on Monday morning on $75,000 bond. If convicted, the sexual assault charge carries a prison sentence of at least 25 years.

It was not immediately clear on Monday whether he had hired a lawyer to represent him. The Deputy Sheriff’s Association of Bexar County did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Monday.

Salazar said he was trying to expedite the firing of Nunez, who was placed on leave on Sunday. The sheriff’s office is also conducting an internal investigation, he said.

“We are going to cut them out like a cancer,” Salazar said, referring to deputies who have been accused of wrongdoing.