Three and a half months after his son's murder, Dan Golvach is seeking some basic facts about the man authorities say killed him. Both the Harris County Sheriff's Office and the Houston Police Department have explained to Golvach, with varying degrees of plausibility, why they can't — or won't — provide the information.
Here's the background: In the early morning hours of January 31, 2015, Spencer Golvach was sitting in his car at a Spring Branch stoplight after he'd just dropped off his girlfriend. Witnesses say a man in a pickup truck pulled up beside Golvach, and without saying anything, shot the 25-year-old musician in the head.
Authorities believe this same man, Victor Rodriguez Reyes, then shot into another car a short while later, killing 28-year-old Juan Garcia. A Harris County Sheriff's deputy in the area responded to the shots and chased Reyes to a dead end. A Sheriff's spokesman told KPRC that Reyes exited the truck with his gun in his hand and did not comply with the deputy's command to drop it. So, fearing for his own safety, the deputy shot at Reyes once, killing him.
That should have been enough for Golvach, but it turns out he's one of those weird dads who want to know stuff about a guy accused of putting a bullet through their sons' head. So Golvach spoke to an investigator at the Houston Police Department who, according to Golvach, told him the shooter was Victor Reyes and he had been deported four times.
That bit really chapped Golvach's hide. He wanted to know how this guy was able to come and go as he pleased. Did he have a criminal record in Houston? How long was he here? Where did he work? Where did he live?
But according to Golvach, the HPD investigator couldn't provide any information because Reyes was killed outside the city limits and was therefore under the Sheriff's jurisdiction. And then, according to Golvach, "The Harris County Sheriff's [Office] would not give me any information because my son's...murder happened in Houston."
Golvach wondered if the seeming runaround had to do with the fact that Reyes was able to slip back into Texas so easily. In Golvach's mind, Spencer's death is symptomatic of a poorly secured border and what he believes is essentially a welcome mat rolled out by "sanctuary cities." He's given at least one interview to Breitbart Texas, a news organization whose ideology dovetails with Dan Golvach's ire.
Golvach told the Houston Press that it felt like the agencies were playing "hot potato." So he hired former investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino to see what he could find.
Dolcefino told the Press he implored officials at both agencies to at least sit down with Golvach and tell him what they knew about Reyes off the record. Golvach was, after all, a grieving father. Dolcefino says he got similar resistance. But he was able to find out a few things, like Hidalgo County court records showing that Reyes received three years' probation for burglary in 2002 and 45 days in jail for misdemeanor assault in 2003. (This also included one year probation.)
So he filed public records requests. He requested information from the HCSO about Reyes's background on March 5, explicitly stating that he was not requesting any information pertaining to the investigation into the shooting of Reyes. Dolcefino provided Reyes's birth date.
The Sheriff's Office legal department replied two weeks later, stating, "We have searched the agency's files to the best of our ability and...the records requested as set forth do not exist." Yup. That dude who went on a shooting spree January 31? That dude shot and killed by a Sheriff's deputy? Nope, no records.
Skeptical, Dolcefino followed up with another records request March 20.
"My firm represents the family of one of the Reyes victims, Spencer Golvach," Dolcefino explained in his letter. "Your office is doing a disservice to this crime victim by not responding to this request in a proper manner."
Six days later, the HCSO's legal department had an unusual reply: Were Dolcefino and Golvach seeking information about Victor Reyes or Spencer Golvach? Dolcefino would have to clarify his request.
Then, on April 29, the HCSO sought an Attorney General's opinion regarding whether the information about Reyes — where he had lived and worked — could be withheld. The HCSO argued that the responsive information was exempt from disclosure because it "deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime."
Supplementing the request was an affidavit from Harris County Assistant District Attorney Brian Rose, stating that his office "has an open investigation currently pending regarding the officer involved shooting death of Victor Reyes" and that "public disclosure of information relating to the case" could hinder the investigation. (DA spokesman Jeff McShan told us via email that investigations of officer-involved shootings are standard, stating, "We look at all of these, whether there's a hint of misconduct or not.")
"I've gone to the highest levels of the Sheriff's department," Dolcefino told us in an email. "They just don't want to talk about this case, period...This is a disgusting indifference. The guy's son was murdered, for God's sake. They ought to read this and call him to apologize. Better yet...answer his damn questions."
On April 17, Dolcefino sent a similar records request to the Houston Police Department. Taking a page from the Sheriff's playbook, a staff attorney responded by seeking an Attorney General's opinion. The HPD attorney argued that the information — again, we're talking about Reyes's address and place of employment — was exempt because it "pertains to a criminal investigation [that] did not result in conviction or deferred adjudication." In other words, since Reyes was shot dead after allegedly killing two men, his place of employment was no one's business.
We're not sure about Golvach's political crusade, but we understand his frustration over not being able to find out what seems to be pretty information about his son's apparent killer. Golvach seems to have gotten the kind of runaround usually reserved for pesky reporters. Like when we simply tried to confirm with HCSO spokeswoman Christina Garza if Golvach had tried to get information from the Sheriff's office. Garza responded with: "With type of information has Mr. Golvach been trying to get on Mr. Reyes? Who has Golvach reached out to at the HCSO and when?"
It was a disingenuous response — the Harris County Sheriff's Office has known for months that Golvach has sought information — but it's the kind of response the media is used to. And usually expects. What we wouldn't expect is a similar brush-off of a man whose 25-year-old son was killed in cold blood.