Kleberg County Volunteer Fire Chief Brandon Lee Harris surrendered himself to the Bishop Police Department Thursday afternoon after an arrest warrant was issued alleging he impersonated an off-duty sheriff’s deputy late last year.
In a phone interview on Thursday, Bishop Police Lt. Alfredo Avalos said the offense occurred on the morning of Dec. 7, 2018 in front of the Bishop Elementary School located at 200 S. Fir Ave. in Bishop. The alleged victim reported the incident to the Bishop Police Department that same day, he said.
“There was a female, according to (Harris), driving at a high rate of speed, so he (Harris) initiated a traffic stop and tried to identify her,” Avalos said. “He identified himself as a Kleberg County Sheriff deputy.”
Avalos said the 37-year-old victim, who is a resident of Kingsville, was driving to the Bishop Elementary School to drop off her children when she noticed a black truck following her on Business Hwy 77 “in an aggressive manner.”
Once she arrived at the school, Avalos said, the man came to her driver side window “banging and yelling to roll down the window.”
“The female victim stated that she looked back and realized it was the truck that was following her,” Avalos said.
Avalos said the woman “observed red-and-white lights flashing from the truck,” and the man then began demanding her driver’s license and insurance. When the woman asked for the man’s identification, Avalos said he told her he was an “off-duty officer from Kleberg County” and again demanded her license and insurance “in a more aggressive tone of voice.”
“The female victim then stated that something did not feel right about this man,” Avalos said. “She told him that she had no problem giving him her information if she could see some kind of identification showing who he worked for.”
Avalos said the man then walked back to his vehicle, and the woman assumed he was retrieving his badge, but he instead opened a back passenger door on his truck to “let a little girl out into the school” before returning to the woman’s car to once again demand her license and insurance.
The woman refused, Avalos said, and drove away from the school, but the man then jumped back into his vehicle and followed her to Bishop Primary School at 705 W. Main St. where she was dropping off another child.
Avalos said the man continued to follow her after she left the campus and headed back to Kingsville.
“She stated that she did not want to go to work because he would find out where she worked,” Avalos said. “She stated that she called her boss and advised him of the situation, and he told her to drive around to try to lose him.”
Avalos said the woman then drove through Kingsville until she was able to lose him near the HEB grocery store in Downtown Kingsville. She then reported the incident to the Bishop Police Department around 4 p.m. that same day.
With the assistance of the Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office, Avalos said his investigators identified Harris as the suspect from the alleged incident.
“(The KCSO) knew of a man with the same color pickup (truck) that had lights, and when they made contact with (Harris), he admitted to making contact with the lady,” he said. “He denied any wrongdoing, but he put himself at the time and place, which was consistent with the victim’s statement.”
As for why it took several months from when the incident allegedly occurred to issuing an arrest warrant, Avalos said the Bishop Police Department is currently “going through a transition” after its former police chief, Billy Durbin, resigned in August.
“He was the main contact with Kleberg County, so once it came to my desk as we were reviewing files, we made contact with Kleberg County and were able to get their supplemental report and body camera and stuff like that,” he said. “We just received it maybe about three or four weeks ago.”
A warrant for Harris’s arrest was issued on Tuesday, Oct. 15. Harris turned himself in to the Bishop Police Department on Thursday, Oct. 17, and is currently incarcerated at the Nueces County Jail in Corpus Christi.
He is charged with impersonating a public servant, a third-degree felony, which is punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (361) 221-0251.