An undocumented woman accused a sheriff’s deputy in Bexar County, Texas of threatening her with deportation to ensure she kept keep quiet about him sexually assaulting her 4-year-old daughter, law enforcement said at a press conference on Sunday.
The officer, Jose Nunez, a 47-year-old, ten-year veteran of the police department, has been charged with super aggravated sexual assault of a child, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said. He faces a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison if convicted. The police department did not immediately respond to request for comment.
"The details of the case are quite frankly heartbreaking, disturbing, disgusting and infuriating all at the same time," Salazar told reporters at the press conference.
The assault took place over several months — perhaps years, according to Salazar — and to keep the crime under wraps, the victim’s mother said Nunez threatened her with deportation if she came forward to law enforcement.
Finally, the mother did, after her daughter made “an outcry” late on Saturday night, Salazar told reporters. The girl was brought to the local fire department where she filled out a complaint. Nunez was then arrested while off-duty on Sunday morning.
The Bexar County Sheriff's Department is filling out paperwork to grant the mother protected status, pending the outcome of the case, working to be sure that she won’t be deported.
“The mother of this little girl is an undocumented immigrant and my understanding is that this suspect utilized that to his advantage to place the mother in fear that she would be deported if she did report it,” Salazar said. “That’s something that in law enforcement we’ve been saying that for some time that that’s always a concern in the undocumented community.”
The authorities believe that Nunez had a familial relationship with the victim and did not come into contact with either the four-year-old girl or her mother through his work as a law enforcement officer.
Asked whether Nunez targeted undocumented immigrants, Salazar told reporters that people like Nunez as “creatures of habit and opportunity.”
“What appealed to him in this case anyway is the vulnerability of that community because of the fact that they’re less apt to report things,” Salazar said.
Cover image: An undocumented woman cleans her nails in the campground where she has been staying with her aunt and their children, in Santa Paula, some 65 miles northwest of Los Angeles, California February 28, 2012. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)