The Dallas Police Department executed search warrants at three Catholic Diocese of Dallas properties Wednesday morning, looking for records of sexual abuse related to five priests.
The warrants were served at three locations, including the diocese's headquarters at 3725 Blackburn Street, a storage location on Ledbetter Drive and the St. Cecilia Parish.
Dallas police Maj. Max Geron, with the department's special investigations division, said Wednesday's raid was the furtherance of an investigation into sexual abuse allegations against Rev. Edmundo Paredes, the longtime pastor of St. Cecilia Parish who was credibly accused of sexual abuse by the Diocese of Dallas last year.
Since the Paredes investigation became public, Geron said, the department has received additional allegations of child abuse against other priests. The search warrant documents obtained by NBC 5 Wednesday morning identified the others as 77-year-old Richard Thomas Brown, 77-year-old Alejandro Buitrago, 63-year-old William Joseph Hughes Jr, and 62-year-old Jeremy Myers.
According to the search warrant (Pg. 4), all five priests are accused of sexual assault of a child, a second-degree felony, however Dallas police clarified that statement Wednesday afternoon to say that the only one of the five priests to have been charged in the case is Paredes.
All of the men named in the search warrant were included on the list of priests incardinated by the Diocese of Dallas who were credibly accused of sexual abuse by the diocese earlier this year. None of the men, Geron said, have been arrested.
Geron said the search warrants executed Wednesday serve to further the investigations into those five priests and that detectives are looking for records, data, or other evidence of records of abuse held by the diocese.
"The Dallas Police Department is working to complete a thorough investigation into each allegation independent of any other entitity to ensure that each victim has a voice within the legal system," Geron said.
The Dallas Catholic Diocese had hired it's own investigators to review church records from the past.
"What the police wanted to do was talk to those investigators, but they were denied access to them by the diocese," said Dallas Morning News Writer David Tarrant, who has been covering the Parades investigation.
"Now what we have is law enforcement getting involved and saying, 'No, we’re going to control this investigation, not the Catholic Church.' That’s a very significant event," Tarrant said. "The police want to say, 'We want to make that judgement about credibly accused.'"
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Bishop Edward Burns, of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, said the following:
"The diocese has been cooperating with the ongoing investigation of these priests even before the list was made public, has given police the personnel files for all of the priests named in the warrant, and has been involved in ongoing discussions with DPD investigators. To date, the Diocese has not received a subpoena and the Diocese's involvement has been voluntary. The Diocese will continue to cooperate in all investigations of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy."
Paredes, meanwhile, who led St. Cecilia Parish for 27 years, hasn't been seen for months and his whereabouts are unknown.
According to a 2018 report, the diocese said allegations of sexual abuse by Paredes came from three adult men. The adults said the incidents occurred more than a decade ago when they were in their mid-teens. Paredes, the diocese said at the time, had already been suspended for unrelated accusations of theft.
The searches in Dallas come as the Vatican continues to try to deal more and more allegations of sexual abuse and cover-ups. Earlier this year, all dioceses in Texas released a list of clergy "credibly accused" of sexual abuse. The Dallas list can be found here and the Fort Worth list can be found here.
A lawsuit filed Tuesday by three brothers in Minneapolis who say they were sexually abused by a priest attempts to trace a direct line from clergy sex abuse victims to the Vatican.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests released a statement Wednesday after learning of the Dallas raids. That statement is below.
We applaud Texas law enforcement officials for raiding the “secret archives” of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas. We are glad that police and prosecutors are taking the issue of clergy abuse in Texas seriously and are not just relying on the promises of church officials.
While the Diocese of Dallas released a list of publicly accused priests back in January, we suspected that the list was incomplete and have police and prosecutors to investigate further. As we have seen in places like Buffalo, Pennsylvania and Illinois, catholic dioceses have not consistently been forthright in disclosing full lists of credibly accused priests, nor providing information about the church officials who covered-up their crimes.
We hope that this raid today sheds more light on the clergy abuse scandal as it relates to the Diocese of Dallas and will uncover the full truth of who knew what, when they knew it, and what steps church officials took in response to allegations of sexual abuse.
Institutions cannot police themselves and it is only through strong action from law enforcement that the full truth of their scandals can be revealed. We applaud the move and hope that it will inspire others who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes or cover ups in Texas to make a report to law enforcement officials immediately.
NBC 5's Jack Highberger, Ken Kalthoff and Noelle Walker contributed to this report.