Sergeant Reinstated After Child Abuse Charges Dropped

Ten months after he was fired, the Santa Cruz County Merit System Commission reinstated Sgt. Cristobal Velasco. The commission voted unanimously to reinstate him. Velasco was a 12-year veteran of the Sheriff’s office who was fired following internal and external investigations of child abuse claims.

When allegations first surfaced, the County Attorneys Office referred the case to the Arizona Attorney General’s office to avoid potential conflicts of interest. The Attorney General’s office presented the investigation results to a grand jury; that grand jury declined to indict Sgt. Velasco. Kim Ortiz, chief counsel of the AG’s Tucson Criminal Section stated, “Accordingly, we are declining prosecution based on the finding of no probable cause after the grand jury presentment.”

The Santa Cruz County Merit System Commission only addressed whether the firing was justified under the instruction of the county’s personnel manual. Velasco was not charged for a crime, and he still has joint custody of his children.

Sheriff Antonio Estrada was surprised by the commission’s decision, stating that Sgt. Velasco was fired based on the investigation by the Nogales Police Department. Nevertheless, Sheriff Estrada will not appeal the commissions ruling, stating, “This has gone on long enough. We move forward and we’ll use it as a framework for future issues that we may be facing,” Estrada added that the appeals process is “a good system” and he plans to welcome Velasco back to the department.

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