Temple police chief: TPD news release contained error
TEMPLE — A police department news release encouraging the public to help locate Killeen boater Jason Bernal was inaccurate, Chief Floyd Mitchell said.
The chief said the department erred because detectives knew that arrangements were ongoing for the intended surrender of Bernal, who is charged with two counts of criminally negligent homicide in the deaths of two Belton Lake swimmers.
TPD spokeswoman Shawana Neely used a standardized news release form, but the last paragraph that asked for public assistance was inaccurate and should not have been included when it was released to media outlets, Mitchell told the FME News Service late Saturday evening.
“Yes, the warrant information went to Shawana to put out and she used her standard press release form that has that statement on the bottom when a warrant is issued,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said he was unaware the Friday news release asked the public to notify the police department or Bell County Crime Stoppers if Bernal’s location was known. When Mitchell was asked if that sentence was applicable in Bernal’s case, he said it wasn’t.
Bernal, 44, is charged with negligent homicide in connection with the deaths of 37-year-old Patrick Oliver and his 4-year-old daughter Kaitlyn Oliver. Kaitlyn died hours after a boating accident at Temple Lake Park on June 23. Oliver died Thursday morning.
Bernal was backing up his houseboat at the Belton Lake park when he allegedly ran over Kaitlyn, who became trapped in the boat’s propellers. Oliver was maimed by the propellers when he tried to rescue his daughter.
Barrett Thomas, Bernal’s attorney, has been in communication with the Bell County district attorney’s office, a police investigator and a Bell County Jail supervisor to arrange for Bernal to safely and efficiently turn himself in. Bernal is expected to surrender to authorities this week.
Bernal, arrested June 23 in connection with Kaitlyn’s death, was released from jail June 26 after posting $150,000 bond.
The recommended bond on the second charge was set at $200,000 by Bell County Justice of the Peace David Barfield.
Thomas said he took issue with the bond amounts, and will request a bond reduction hearing.
Thomas said Sunday he was pleased that Mitchell acknowledged the department’s error.
“I appreciate his comments and look forward to a peaceful, cooperative resolution of this issue in the very near future,” Thomas said.