DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Investigators with the Dallas Police Department have executed a number of warrants across the city — at the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, a storage location of the headquarters and a parish.
Squad cars and a Dallas police box truck were outside the Diocese for hours.READ MORE: 2 Tigers At Pittsburgh Zoo Test Positive For COVID-19
The warrants were related to allegations of clergy abuse against Edmundo Paredes, who was a priest at Saint Cecilia Catholic Church in North Oak Cliff for 27 years, and other suspects.
Bishop Edward J. Burns said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon, “What this does is gives us another opportunity to be cooperative and transparent… What we’d like to do is indeed demonstrate a transparency and work with them (police) and if there is an area they need more information, of course today, they’re going to have it.”
Burns said there were errors in the search warrant, but did not say specifically what was incorrect.
“In addition to the allegations against Mr. Paredes detectives are investigating at least five additional allegations of child abuse against other suspects. These investigations stem from additional allegations made after the case against Mr. Paredes became public,” Dallas Maj. Max Geron said at a morning press conference. “In furtherance of these investigations today we obtained and executed multiple search warrants to collect any data or documentation of previous reports or records of abuse that may be held by the Dallas Catholic Diocese.”
Major Geron said Dallas detectives are “working to complete a through investigation into each allegation – independent of any other entity – to ensure that each victim has a voice within the legal system.”
When asked if the suspects were alive or dead Maj. Geron said it would be “safe to characterize that,” but a 31-page affidavit obtained by CBS 11 News accuses Paredes, along with Richard Thomas Brown, Alejandro Buitrago, and Jeremy Myers of Sexual Assault of a Child.
After news was released about the searches, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) released a statement that said, in part, “We applaud Texas law enforcement officials for raiding the ‘secret archives’ of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas. We are glad that police and prosecutors are taking the issue of clergy abuse in Texas seriously and are not just relying on the promises of church officials.”READ MORE: "Reading Rainbow" To Return After 15-Year Hiatus
“We hope that this raid today sheds more light on the clergy abuse scandal as it relates to the Diocese of Dallas and will uncover the full truth of who knew what, when they knew it, and what steps church officials took in response to allegations of sexual abuse,” the SNAP statement said.
In 2018 the Catholic Diocese of Dallas revealed it had been working with local and federal investigators to review the files of all its priests and claimed, “every practicing priest in Dallas was reviewed and cleared by a team of former FBI agents and law enforcement investigators.”
It was at that same time that the Diocese hired a team of investigators to examine its priests’ files. According to the affidavit, when DPD investigators learned this team was “hired to review files to see whether there were problem issues… whether its financial management of churches, whether its mentally unstable, whether… they give terrible homilies or whatever…” detectives requested the number of priests’ files flagged for sexual abuse and were denied because the church deemed it “privileged.”
As to the “team” conducting the internal investigation for the Diocese, the court documents say, “The identities of other investigators were never revealed to Dallas police nor was their experience in child abuse investigations, if any.”
During the morning press conference Maj. Geron said, “We have had a number of meetings with them [Diocese of Dallas], characterizing that at varying degrees of cooperation you could do that, but again I’ll reiterate that we believed at this point that the execution of the warrants was wholly appropriate for the furtherance of the investigation.”
Anyone who has experienced abuse within the Catholic Diocese, its parishes or any other case of child abuse is encouraged to contact the Dallas Police Department’s Child Exploitation Squad at 214-671-4211.
After the DPD raid the Diocese issued a statement that said, in part –
“Today the Dallas police, assisted by the FBI, executed a search warrant at the Pastoral Center at the Catholic Diocese of Dallas for files and information on five priests who were on the list made public by Bishop Edward J. Burns on January 31, 2019. The diocese has been cooperating with the ongoing investigation of these priests even before the list was made public, has given police the personnel files for all of the priests named in the warrant, and has been involved in ongoing discussions with DPD investigators.”
“I just know that this is an opportunity for us. I know there are people suspicious of the church and this is an opportunity for us to stand up with confidence and show we’re doing things right,” Bishop Burns said during his news conference.
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“I recognize the seriousness of all of this and as the Bishop, I’m going to lean in to this,” Bishop Burns said.