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BCSO organizes new unit to investigate over a dozen deaths reported during and after winter storm

The unit is actively seeking to gather records CPS Energy records of when the power was on and off related to the 15 deaths.

SAN ANTONIO — The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday announced it is launching a new investigative unit focused on finding out how more than a dozen people died during or right after the winter storms that swept across Texas last week.

Last week’s spell of wintry weather proved brutal for millions of Texans who endured days of no electricity, as well as shortages of food and water.

Many people died amid the cold crisis, prompting law enforcement agencies to investigate if these deaths were accompanied by criminal negligence.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar stressed it’s too soon to concretely say whether any of the 15 or so deaths being investigated can be directly linked to the frigid conditions.

“What could be a natural death takes on a whole new twist when you look at it through the lens of, 'Oh, there was a major unprecedented 30-year weather event and power outages for a sustained amount of time,'" Salazar said.

Over the past week, BCSO has been responding to a wealth of welfare calls regarding those reported missing, sick, or injured.

Deputies found a 69-year-old man dead in his home off Green Lake Drive. Salazar noted it was 35 degrees inside and there was no working electricity when deputies discovered the body.

The sheriff’s office also found a woman in her 50s dead in her residence on Horse Canyon. Officials say she is believed to have passed due to natural causes. The electricity in her home was not working, either.

“I’m honestly a firm believer that, at this very moment, there are people lying dead inside homes that we still have not discovered,” Salazar said.

The investigative unit is actively seeking grand jury subpoenas to issue to CPS Energy, its goal being to gather records of when the power was on and off related to the 15 deaths.

The newly-formed investigative team is coordinating with a major health care provider in Bexar County for assistance on determining the cause of death. 

Salazar expressed his outrage with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas based on the organization’s overall response and current news of out-of-state board members resigning.

He made it known he’s not pointing fingers at any agency or company at this time.

“I will tell you if I do find out that their negligence led to the deaths of citizens in Bexar County, I’m definitely going to hold somebody accountable,” Salazar said.

A CPS Energy spokesperson emailed KENS 5 a statement in response to BCSCO’s establishment of the investigative unit:

"CPS Energy extends heartfelt condolences to the friends and family of these individuals. We have received some subpoenas for information from Bexar County law enforcement. CPS Energy is cooperating with authorities as these incidents are investigated. We are committed to our customers and remain focused on helping our community recover."

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