The texts don’t say much on the surface, but if you squint, you can read a lot between the lines. On one end is Pilar Candia, an erstwhile candidate for Fort Worth school board. On the other, none other than Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald. The topic: a dog with a hole in his face, a hole created by a bullet fired from a 9mm aimed by Candia’s husband (“Dog Shot by Vote Canvasser,” May 4, 2017).
After the shooting that occurred on Meadowbrook Drive near Beach Street, witnesses said Candia was speaking on her cellphone when the responding police officers arrived at the scene. Witnesses said Candia handed her phone to one of the officers, saying, “The chief wants to talk to you.” The officer then sat in his patrol car for several minutes speaking on the phone, witnesses said.
Police did not detain or arrest husband Pedro Juarez, despite his having the gun in his possession without a permit and the spent cartridge still lying in the grass near a bloodstained sidewalk. Police said they didn’t witness the shooting and, therefore, would assign a detective to investigate, which is standard procedure.
No charges have been filed against Juarez. The dog’s owner received two citations for two loose dogs, even though witnesses said only one dog was anywhere near Juarez.
Police told us that the chief’s phone conversation occurred after Candia had texted him to ask him to call her shortly after the shooting.
Last week, police provided the content of those text exchanges in response to our public information request.
At 4:18pm, Candia sent a message to Fitzgerald saying, “Please call me. Is an emergency.”
A short time later, the chief called and spoke with Candia before police officers had arrived on the scene. The police did not provide a transcript of what was said on the phone, only in the text messages.
Two hours later, Fitzgerald texted Candia.
“I’m at an event now … is everything OK?” [The ellipses is the chief’s, not ours.]
“We are home now,” Candia replied, “just trying to calm down my daughters, they are still in shock. Thank you so much! I am so sorry to bother but didn’t know what to do.”
“No problem,” the chief replied. “You did the right thing. I’m happy we were of service.”
“I am still terrified of what could have happened,” Candia wrote. “I am normally block walking alone with the girls.”
“Thankfully your husband was there,” the chief texted. Code Enforcement “will deal with the animal control issue. I’m just glad you are all safe.”
“Thank you,” Candia responded.
“Never a problem,” replied the chief.
“Unfortunately, now they are trying to make it political and unfair,” Candia wrote.
“I certainly know how you feel,” wrote the chief. “Keep your chin up. If I can, you can!”
That is the end of the texted conversation. And here is our (perhaps skewed) interpretation. Candia got into a scary situation while out on the street during her personal time, doing personal things. But she “didn’t know what to do” during an emergency, so she called the chief. Most people know what to do in a similar situation –– call 911, wait for police, then tell them what happened. Most people don’t call the police chief for counseling because, well, the chief doesn’t give his cell phone number to the other 900,000 residents he protects and serves.
The text messages allowed Candia to spin her side of the story without giving the same courtesy to the dog owner or witnesses.
The chief, responding with “thankfully your husband was there” and saying that Code Enforcement would deal with the animal control issue, could be interpreted as his believing her side of the story without hearing the other side of the story.
Candia thanked the chief, and he replied “never a problem,” which sounds like Candia has carte blanche to call him the next time she or her husband shoots someone’s pet.
Candia whines about how some people were “trying to make it political and unfair,” when it was she who used her city connections to speed-dial the chief. Her pity plea seems to have worked, bonding with Fitzgerald, who is having his own problems with disgruntled police officers and angry residents (“Hot Blue Mess,” April 5, and “Dream or Nightmare?” Jan. 25, 2017).
Alas, Candia lost her bid for the school board despite being endorsed, somewhat curiously, by the Fort Worth Police Officer’s Association, a group that often throws its weight into city council elections but rarely involves itself in school board races. Looks like they both got bit in the election.
Duncan, the overweight, friendly 11-year-old dog, survived the gunshot and is doing well.
“He’s back to eating his Kibbles again,” owner Alan Smith said.
Recently, Smith said he was interviewed about the shooting by a police detective who requested information from the veterinarian to pass along to the district attorney’s office.
“It sounds to me like they are going after [Juarez’s] gonads,” Smith added.