Deputy sexually assaulted 4-year-old, threatened mother with deportation, sheriff says

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A sheriff's deputy in South Texas is accused of sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl and threatening the child's mother with deportation if she reported him, authorities said.

Nunez, a detention officer with the Bexar County Sheriff's Office, will be on paid administrative leave for 10 days during the department's internal affairs investigation, but Salazar said it was his intention to terminate the officer at the earliest possible date, pending the outcome of both investigations.

Salazar described the case involving one of the department's own deputies as "heartbreaking, disturbing, disgusting, and infuriating all at the same time".

The sheriff said Nunez, 47, allegedly touched the girl inappropriately on numerous occasions, causing her pain and "at least some indication of minor injury".

Salazar said the victim's mother is an undocumented immigrant and Nunez used that advantage to keep the mother from reporting the crime. "This suspect utilized that to place the mother in fear that she would be deported if she did report it". If convicted, he could be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, said Leslie Garza of the Bexar County district attorney's office. I don't know that he was purposely targeting the undocumented community.

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Sheriff Javier Salazar said in a press conference the mother of the young victim came forward to a local fire station after the girl cried out for help. "And that's what's going to happen in this case", said Salazar.

At the time of his arrest, Nunez was assigned to the annex jail, KSAT-TV reported.

"Folks like this are creatures of habit and opportunity", Salazar said.

The identities of the child and her mother were not released by law enforcement. "It's just important that [undocumented immigrants] feel comfortable enough to give us a call and report the crime".

Immigrant rights groups say Texas' Senate Bill 4, which was passed a year ago, has created an atmosphere of anxiety and apprehension among the undocumented who don't want to go to local law enforcement for crimes due to their citizenship status.