Rios inquiry under way

Wednesday, June 16, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:45 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Columbia Police Department has launched an internal-affairs investigation of Steven Rios, the officer who has been linked to homicide victim Jesse Valencia.

The investigation, which began Monday, is focusing on “issues related to policy and procedure violations,” Police Chief Randy Boehm said. The investigation is being led by Capt. Sam Hargadine, the department’s internal-affairs commander.

“It is under way,” Hargadine said. “But that’s all I’m going to discuss.”

Boehm also declined to discuss any violations of departmental policy that Rios might have committed. But he acknowledged that they are related to the Valencia case and “are not minor in nature.”

“There have been some issues and concerns — reference his most recent behavior — that are being investigated,” Boehm said.

Valencia’s body was found June 5 near his East Campus apartment at 1414 Wilson Ave. On Wednesday, Rios, 27, was granted a personal leave after investigators learned that he was involved on a “personal level” with the 23-year-old victim, an MU student.

Boehm placed Rios on administrative leave Thursday after the officer called the department from Kansas City, saying he had a shotgun and intended to harm himself. Police took Rios into protective custody late Thursday evening, but he escaped Friday night and threatened another suicide attempt. He has since been taken back into protective custody and moved to a mental-health facility in Fulton.

Boehm said he would remain in protective custody for at least 96 hours. “That’s what we are allowed to do by statute,” Boehm said.

Investigative Commander Capt. Mike Martin reiterated Tuesday that no suspects have been named.

Rios joined the force in November 2001, after working as a security officer at Columbia Regional Airport. He is the administrator of the Columbia Police Foundation, a group founded to help provide resources to aid police officers. Boehm said Rios’ status with the organization is also being re-evaluated.

Boehm said that before the events of the past 10 days, he would have said Rios was “doing his job very well.”

Reporter Petya Stoeva contributed to this report.

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