The Lead Jan. 22, 2022: Kerr County law enforcement ends up having a busy week

COVID-19 continues to cause all sorts of problems, 2 more deaths reported on Friday.

Good morning!

We hope you have a pleasant Saturday planned. The weather is looking like a plus. Let's jump right into it.

Schreiner gets pair of big wins

Schreiner University's men's and women's basketball teams swept Colorado College on Friday night. The Mountaineers face St. Thomas today, with the men slated to start at 4 p.m. and the women play at 6 p.m.

Men's game:


Women's game:

Kerr County's COVID-19 death toll rises by 2

COVID-19 claimed the lives of two more Kerr County residents, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The deaths happened on Jan. 4 and Jan. 15 — marking four deaths this month during this latest surge of the coronavirus.

All of this comes as hospitalizations at Peterson Regional Medical Center rose to 33 COVID-19 admissions, including seven in the intensive care unit. Peterson said 157 people tested positive since Wednesday. Across Texas, hospitalizations increased to 13,300 people, including 496 pediatric admissions.

DSHS said more than 65,000 people were confirmed or probable for the virus on Friday.

The situation in the schools continued to climb, with 330 students and staff reportedly out in Kerrville Independent School District. In a report from Jan. 16, the Texas Education Agency now estimates that 914 students and 219 staff have tested positive since the start of the pandemic. There are 6,856 students in Kerr County's school districts.

Bank of America to close Kerrville branch

The Kerrville branch of Bank of America will close May 22, the company told its customers via an email and an online posting. The Main Street location is part of dozens of branch closures the company has made or will make in the months to come.

Bank of America, still the nation's largest bank, told its customers they could receive in-person customer service at its Boerne branch or locations in San Antonio.

In an article from April of last year, the American Banking Association said the pace of bank branch closures could intensify in small and rural communities as more people transition to online banking.

"Americans increasingly rely on digital channels to access banking services," the ABA article said. "More than a third (34%) of American households used mobile channels as their primary method of accessing bank accounts in 2019, according to the FDIC, up 18.4 percentage points from 2017, with the largest gains in adoption of mobile banking among Black, Asian, and Hispanic Americans. Given continued focused investment in expanding broadband access across the U.S., digital banking presents a promising avenue for further bridging the financial divide."

Suspected sexual predator arrested

Kerr County Sheriff's deputies arrested an Ingram man Thursday on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old child.

Deputies took Richard Hernandez, 40, into custody and charged him with sexual assault of a child and possession of child pornography. Hernandez is in Kerr County Jail on a $150,000 bond.

"The KCSO will continue to work day and night to protect the children of Kerr County," Sheriff Larry Leitha said. "The facts, in this case, are disturbing."

Deputies said forensic examination of Hernandez's phone found a large amount of child pornography. Hernandez is a former Hill Country Youth Ranch employee, and the victim does not have a connection to the Ingram home for abused and neglected children.

"The encounter between Mr. Hernandez and the minor victim began via an online dating site and continued through social media," Leitha said. "Online dangers continue to be a growing threat to our youth."

Speaking of the Sheriff

Kerr County Sheriff Larry Leitha and Capt. Jason Waldrip were the featured speakers at the Republican Women of Kerr County during a luncheon Friday at Inn of the Hills.

Leitha outlined some of the challenges of his first year on the job, including managing COVID-19 and last February's winter storm. However, Leitha also hit on some of the other obstacles facing his office, ranging from:

  • Supply-chain issues have limited the office's ability to repair some of their fleet of Chevy Tahoe. The office is now two years behind in purchasing replacement vehicles to compound that problem.
  • With 220 inmates to feed, the price of food and supplies has skyrocketed during one of the biggest inflationary jumps in 40 years. Another issue is gasoline — Leitha said he expects to exceed his fuel budget.
  • A lack of technology is particularly problematic, again hampered by the supply-chain issues. The office had just one laptop when he took office.
  • Leitha said he's working to end the practice of deputies owning their sidearms and moving to office-issued weapons. That, however, will take time to implement.
  • He plans to hire a deputy to deal with mental health issues. In 2020, the office dealt with 125 mental health-related calls for assistance, but that number rose to 155 in 2021. Mental health issues present another problem for the office and Kerrville Police Department. The two agencies partner to transport people with mental health issues, but increasingly they're driving to facilities in San Angelo and Victoria because facilities in San Antonio are full.

There were plenty of wins for the office in his first year.

  • The office stepped-up enforcement by issuing more than 2,000 citations (some are warnings) — a three-fold increase over 2020 — and Leitha expects his patrol division to continue to be ever-present in the community.
  • The office continues its work to stop narcotics flowing through the county — a major priority for Leitha, who cited drug trafficking as one of his biggest concerns.

Waldrip, who leads the office's special operations division, spoke to the audience about the office's efforts to slow human smuggling through Kerr County. Both Waldrip and Leitha said with the Texas Department of Public Safety focused on border protection and patrol that leaves much of Interstate 10 and other state highways that criss-cross the county unpatrolled.

Waldrip said the office plans to improve their patrol efforts, including even the office's top officers (himself included) putting on a uniform and heading out onto the highways to stave off human smuggling efforts.

Speaking of drugs

A drug deal gone bad led the Kerrville Police Department to arrest five people on Friday. And this is some tale. Buckle up.

A Kerrville man, 22, and a woman, 19, are sitting in a car in the Kerrville Walmart parking lot on Friday afternoon when they said another man jumped into the car, proceeding to steal the first man's wallet — that being the man sitting in the parked car.

The man who allegedly stole the wallet then fled the parking lot in another car. So, the "victim" calls 9-1-1 to report he's in pursuit of the car with the man who stole his wallet. Within a few seconds, the KPD is on the chase and stops the suspected thief's car in 1100 block of East Main Street.

Police said they noticed "a very strong odor of marijuana coming from the occupants and their vehicle." So, they detained a Boerne man, 21, who was driving, the front seat passenger, a 19-year-old Hondo man, and the back seat passenger, a 17-year-old Boerne woman.

The man who reported all this shows up and repeats his story to the police. However, the suspects in the case told police something slightly different — well, let's just say dramatically different.

"The occupants of the suspect vehicle told officers that they had met the 9-1-1 caller to purchase marijuana from him, but had instead stolen the marijuana and left without paying for it," KPD wrote in a social media post. "Text message conversations they showed KPD officers confirmed that this was an arranged drug deal between the 9-1-1 caller and the other subjects."

Police searched the initial suspects' car and found a used methamphetamine pipe and a large bag containing 32 individual 3.5-gram packets of marijuana. Then their attention turned to the 9-1-1 caller and the woman with him.

Police detained the two of them, then found his driver's license, debit card, and other identification that he told officers had been in his wallet were in his girlfriend's purse. Police also found a loaded handgun in the vehicle.

Officers said the real jackpot was at the home of the 9-1-1 caller. After obtaining a search warrant, and then found the following catalog of stuff:

  • A large quantity of marijuana.
  • THC concentrates in the form of wax, crystals and resins, psilocybin mushrooms,
  • $4,365 in cash
  • A handgun.
  • Equipment that is evidence that the suspect has been obtaining large quantities of marijuana and other drugs via mail, as well as producing THC concentrates at the residence, and selling them.
  • Also found were assorted drug paraphernalia, labeling and packaging materials, 19 pre-paid credit cards and other items used to facilitate drug dealing.

The men were all taken to Kerr County Jail; the women in the case were released but could be charged later.

Did you know that Friday was National Squirrel Day?

Neither did we. However, we found this squirrel at Inn of the Hills getting a sip of pool water.

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