SANSOM PARK, Texas – Months before a drunk driver caused an accident in Lake Worth killing an off-duty police detective, the same driver was arrested by the Sansom Park police for DWI. However, they botched that investigation.
Police logs obtained by FOX 4 show the mistakes made by the Sansom Park Police Department.
Dash camera footage obtained by FOX 4 shows Dylan Molina arrested on DWI charges by the Sansom Park Police Department on May 17, 2021. The next day, however, Molina was released on grounds not disclosed at the time.
Seven months later, Molina drunkenly tried to escape from an accident he caused, which killed off-duty Euless Police Detective Alex Cervantes. Cervantes was taking his wife and two boys shopping for Christmas decorations.
Now, FOX 4 has obtained hundreds of documents explaining why Sansom Park PD chose to release Molina from his DWI arrest seven months before he killed Detective Cervantes.
FOX 4 took the documents to Dr. Alex del Carmen, associate dean of criminology at Tarleton State University.
“This individual was allowed to leave prison and do it again,” he said. “What went wrong? A lot of things.”
According to a Sansom Park police report, Molina failed a field sobriety test.
He says Molina then “agreed to provide a blood sample and was transported by [Officer Jon] Wright at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Azle.”
Afterwards, “[Officer] Wright filled out all the forms and labels and secured them inside the blood kit. Wright transported Molina to Sansom Park Jail where he was arrested for drunk driving.”
This is where the police report ends. But what happened to the blood sample?
In an email, former Sansom Park sergeant. Sara Straten told Officer Wright that later that day another officer “located evidence of your blood in the break room refrigerator.”
“The evidence was actually placed in a refrigerator that everyone had access to. And that’s a big no-no because of the belief or theory that someone could tamper with the evidence, and therefore it will no longer be acceptable or admissible in a court of law,” del Carmen said.
There were also problems with documents not being filed on time.
“I’ll tell you what seems to be happening here is there were a lot of things that went wrong on that particular day,” del Carmen said.
In an email, Sgt. Straten told former boss Carolyn Gilmore that “[Detective Robert] Payne and I decided the arrest should be reversed.”
The blood results were still being sent to a lab. Molina’s hits were .212, nearly three times the legal limit.
“Because of the lack of professionalism and the fact that this particular chain of custody has been violated, you now have an individual who is free to roam around and do exactly what he was arrested for the day before,” del Carmen said. “And ultimately that led to the death of Detective Alex Cervantes.”
We will never know how Molina’s driving habits might have changed, whether by her will or by court order, had that initial DWI gone through.
“This person would have faced circumstances that could possibly have prevented the death of an innocent person,” del Carmen said.
Instead on November 27, 2021, Molina got drunk at a bar in Lake Worth. He was involved in a minor accident as he pulled out of the parking lot. He sped away, ran a red light and hit the Cervantes family vehicle.
After Cervantes’ death, Sansom Park police filed a DWI complaint which they initially denied. It was basically a moot point.
Molina was sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing Detective Alex Cervantes.
FOX 4 spoke with his widow, Priscilla Cervantes, after the ruling.
“It won’t bring Alex back, but at least he’s locked up behind bars and not able to hurt another family like he did ours,” she said.
Del Carmen says there’s a lesson here for law enforcement.
“That things have to be done according to the rules and officers have to be held accountable,” he said. “Because if they’re not, then we have tragedies like these where it was an officer himself who lost his life as a result of this negligence.”
Former Sansom Park Police Chief Carolyn Gilmore was in charge at the time of the DWI. She has repeatedly declined to interview for this story.
The current Chief of Police, James Burchfield, declined our request for an on-camera interview.
Instead, he sent FOX 4 a statement saying, “Since we became Chief of the Sansom Park Police Department in 2022, we have expanded our department’s staff, including supervisory staff. We have completely rewritten our police policy handbook and are committed to serving citizens daily.”
The chief says Officer Wright left of his own accord after the DWI was expelled for undisclosed reasons and began working for the Lake Worth Police Department. However, he will soon return to Sansom Park as an officer.