Cops Allegedly Dropped the Ball on Case of Abused Boy Who Later Died
(ALBUQUERQUE) -- Two Albuquerque cops have been placed on leave for allegedly failing to report their visit to a family home following a 911 call made by a 9-year-old boy who died of physical abuse six months later, police told ABC News Thursday. Omaree Varela called 911 in June 2013 and later died of what authorities described as child abuse injuries in December 2013, police said.
“As of February 4 the two officers who were dispatched on the call have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation,” Albuquerque Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry told ABC News. “There are many aspects of this call which are extremely troubling,” Perry said. “If it is determined by the internal affairs investigation that officers involved did not respond in accordance with proper procedures, swift action will be taken to hold those individuals accountable.”
The 911 call captured the cries of a child while a male voice was repeatedly cursing and saying, “I wish you weren’t here,” “I don’t want to be your dad,” and “I don’t want to deal with you anymore.”
ABC News affiliate KOAT obtained lapel-camera footage taken by the officers who were dispatched to the source of the 911 call on that day.
The video begins with two officers arriving at the scene, questioning a man and a woman and Omaree while taking a quick look through the house.
The two officers did not notify the Child, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) of a possible case of child abuse, said Henry Varela, communications director for the agency.
“We continue to stress the importance of every person reporting any suspicion of child abuse or neglect to CYFD,” Varela told ABC News.
“In consultation with the mayor, I have directed that Chief [Allen] Banks conduct an immediate and thorough internal affairs investigation in order to get to the bottom of this case as quickly as possible,” Perry told ABC News.
The Albuquerque Police Department did not immediately return calls from ABC News seeking comment, but Chief Banks told KOAT that his officers made multiple errors on that day -- starting with the fact that Omaree should not have been questioned with the people suspected of abusing him right next to him.
“They did not write a report in this case,” Banks told KOAT. An officer “says, ‘I’ll call CYFD,’ but he never called CYFD.”
In addition, a police report should have been filed, Perry told KOAT. “We’re going to investigate it, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it, and there’s going to be consequences if there isn’t some damn good legal explanation for that,” he said.
Omaree’s mother, Cynthia Varela Casaus, 38, has been charged in connection with the child’s death.
“She has been arrested on December 28 on charges of child abuse and physical harm resulting in death, and her bond was set for $100,000,” Nataura C. Powdrell, the public information officer of the Metropolitan Detention Center of Bernalillo County, told ABC News.
“She is not able to pay her bond so she will be here until the end of the judiciary process and right now she has been indicted by a grand jury,” Powdrell said.
The Metropolitan Detention Center of Bernalillo County website lists Varela as a current inmate at the facility.
On the day of her arrest, Casaus told KOAT, “I didn’t do it. It wasn’t intentional....It was an accident. I was disciplining him. I kicked him the wrong way. It was an accident.”
Casaus has been appointed an attorney, Tod Farkas. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment by ABC News.
There is a second suspect in Omaree’s death but police declined to name the suspect at this time, KOAT reported.
Following the child’s death, an autopsy showed Omaree had cigarette burns, lacerations, a bite mark and bruises, according to KOAT.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio