McALLEN, Texas — Corpus Christi Police issued arrest warrants Thursday for six workers accused of organizing a 'fight club' where residents of a state facility for the mentally and developmentally disabled fought each other for the staff's entertainment. The six, all listed as Corpus Christi residents, are charged with injury to a disabled person.
Timothy Dixon, 30, Jesse Salazar, 25, Guadalupe Delarosa, 21, Vince Johnson, 22 and Dangelo Riley, 22, were all charged with a third-degree felony and had a bond of $30,000. Stephanie Garza, 21, was charged with a state jail felony for failing to stop or report the fights; her bond was set at $15,000.
"I think that our department opened a big can of worms statewide," Wilson said. "The people running this school didn't come out smelling too good." Wilson said the investigation continues and additional arrests are possible.
Last week police identified 11 staff members in about 20 short videos of fights at the Corpus Christi State School, one of 13 state facilities for the mentally and developmentally disabled. The videos were on a cell phone, belonging to Dixon, that provided to a police officer.
Four of the employees were no longer working at the facility, having been fired or resigned before the videos became known. The other seven were placed on emergency leave last week, and are in the process of being fired.
Wilson said the six charged Thursday were identified in videos of fights in which residents were injured. Some of fights dated back to 2007.
Gov. Rick Perry responded by ordering a moratorium on new admissions to the Corpus Christi facility and demanding the installation of security cameras. A lack of supervision on the overnight shifts is believed to have created the atmosphere for the Corpus Christi fights, which took place in the early morning hours.
Beth Mitchell, the managing lawyer for Advocacy Inc., a non-profit with federal authority to monitor abuse and neglect at the facilities, said Thursday that recent interviews with residents at the Corpus Christi facility suggested the fights may have involved more people than appear in the videos.
Mitchell called the abuse at the school "rampant" and said, "there are a lot more people involved because it becomes a culture." Mitchell also cited two incidents investigated and confirmed by Texas Adult Protective Services in the past year in which staff at facilities in Mexia and San Angelo instigated residents to beat up others.
"I don't think it's the organized fight club going on in Corpus Christi," Mitchell said. But interviews with the residents suggested they feared losing privileges such as going outside or to the canteen if they did not follow orders to fight, she said. Last summer, a female resident at the San Angelo State School, beat up another female resident at the urging of a staff member. The attacker told investigators she was afraid she would be punished if she refused.
In November, several staff members told a resident to attack another man whose room was next to a nurse's station. No one intervened and the incident was not reported to Adult Protective Services until two shifts later, when staff noticed the victim's bruises, Mitchell said.
A Justice Department report in December found at least 53 patients in Texas' facilities died in 2007 from preventable conditions that were often the result of lapses in care. It also charged that the facilities violate residents' rights.
According to state records obtained last year by The Associated Press, 53 employees at the Corpus Christi State School were fired for abuse or neglect between fiscal 2004 and fiscal 2007. Another 24 were suspended.
There were 229 confirmed allegations of abuse or neglect at the Corpus Christi State School between fiscal year 2004 and fiscal 2008, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The agency investigated 5,443 allegations of abuse and neglect at the facility during that five-year period.