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Former Bexar Co. DA reacts to sheriff's impending investigations into possible cold-weather deaths

The sheriff says criminal charges are possible as his office investigates potential cold weather-related deaths.

SAN ANTONIO — Could there be challenges to the Bexar County Sheriff's Office's progress as it begins investigating potential cold weather-related deaths? A local lawyer believes there may be. 

Sheriff Javier Salazar announced Tuesday the creation of a new unit to look into whether last week's brutal cold contributed to the deaths of more than a dozen people in the area. He said criminal charges are even a possibility. 

"If I do find out that their negligence lead to deaths of citizens of Bexar County, I am definitely going to hold somebody accountable," the sheriff said.

KENS 5 asked Nico LaHood, former Bexar County district attorney, to weigh in on the announcement.

"But who do you blame? LaHood asked of the impending investigations. "Are you blaming an organization? Do you hold an organization criminally liable?"

The sheriff said they're investigating at least 15 deaths that occurred in the county in recent days, and whether or not they are due to natural causes. He also fears more people could be dead in their home, as yet undiscovered.

"There is a lot of questions I would have from a prosecutorial standpoint, in where he is going with this investigation," LaHood said.

KENS 5 asked LaHood if the sheriff has legal authority with such an investigation.

"He has legal authority to do an investigation," he said. "'Is it the best use of his resources?' I think is the best question people may ask. I am curious what theory. It has to be criminal negligent homicide. But then I think there are some challenges, and some hurdles."

LaHood said that, as district attorney, you have be open-minded.

"To hold anybody accountable, whether it is an organization or individual for violating the Texas penal code," he said. "But you also have to have the evidence to substantiate a case and make sure it is not political grandstanding. I am not saying this is."

The sheriff said the loved ones of those who died should be given complete answers.

KENS 5 reached out to active Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales for a comment, and received the below statement.

"We are presently reviewing all of our options. The Bexar County District Attorney's Office supports all reviews into what contributed to the power and water crisis that impacted so many Texans last week. All Texans should have a clear understanding of what went wrong so that those mistakes are remedied and not repeated."