Stone County

Stone County deputy who suddenly resigned had been fired from another Coast agency

A Stone County deputy who resigned after an investigation began into his alleged mistreatment of a mentally ill man in handcuffs was fired from another Coast agency two years earlier.

Pablo de la Cruz was a patrol deputy and K-9 handler at the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office when he was fired May 5, 2017.

His termination went into effect the same day as the firings of two other deputies — Gerald Welder and Reserve Deputy Matthew Peleaz.

The Sun Herald confirmed the firing of all three deputies after a review of the May 22, 2017, minutes of the meeting of the Harrison County Board of Supervisors.

In addition, Sheriff Troy Peterson later confirmed the firings and added that an internal investigation was prompted from within the agency. A complaint had not been filed against any of the deputies, he said.

Peterson said he could not discuss the allegations against de la Cruz and the others, citing personnel matters. However, he did say the department does an internal investigation any time a deputy files a use-of-force report on an apprehension.

Whatever prompted the firings, authorities confirmed, was related to a police chase on April 15, 2017, that led to the arrest of a man from Cleveland, Tennessee.

The Sun Herald has filed a public records request to obtain disciplinary records that could shed light on what led to the firings.

The chase

Deputies were searching for Zachary William Brown, then 26, in a hit-and-run on Vidalia Road near Pass Christian when the 2017 chase started.

During the chase, Brown rammed a patrol car and nearly hit a deputy that was putting out spike strips — which later blew the tires out on Brown’s mini-van.

Brown led authorities down Interstate 10, reaching speeds of over 100 mph, before he eventually crashed, jumped out his mini-van and ran.

He was taken into custody during a K-9 apprehension.

De la Cruz was the K-9 handler at the time.

Reduced charges

In the end, Brown only faced misdemeanor charges. He was credited with time served in jail and released on the same day that de la Cruz was fired.

Brown’s initial felony fleeing charge was changed to a misdemeanor offense of failure to yield to blue lights.

He pleaded guilty to that charge and misdemeanor charges of first-offense DUI other, driving with a suspended license and driving without proof of insurance.

The only charge that was dismissed involved a charge of resisting arrest filed by de la Cruz, according to Justice Court records.

The Sun Herald attempted to reach Brown to learn more, but could not reach him.

Background check?

Law enforcement agencies routinely perform background checks on officers before they are hired.

It’s unclear whether the Stone County Sheriff’s Office did a background check on de la Cruz before he joined that department in April 2018.

The Sun Herald has reached out to Stone County Sheriff Mike Farmer for comment, but was told he was away at a conference and could not be reached by phone.

The Sun Herald hopes to learn more about the incident that led to de la Cruz’s abrupt resignation in Stone County through a pending records request.

So far, the Sun Herald has received no response.

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