Former Beaumont officer involved in third shooting

Former Beaumont officer involved in third shooting

After pulling the trigger in two fatal shootings in less than a year’s time while sworn to protect and serve as an officer of the Beaumont Police Department, Chase Welch exited the ranks of the local law enforcement agency early in 2017. San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that he is now under their employ, but he was not in the office Wednesday, Aug. 9, allegedly because he was under review for involvement in yet another officer-involved shooting at his new job.

While the agency has yet to officially release the name of the officer involved in the San Jacinto County shooting, the Texas Rangers have confirmed their involvement in the investigation.

“Our Rangers are investigating an officer-involved shooting, but that’s really all I can say about it right now,” DPS Sgt. Stephanie Davis said of the Aug. 6 event, adding that details regarding the officer’s identity would need to come through the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office. Messages were left at the sheriff’s office for Welch, who was not at work according to the operator, and the agency’s public information officer. No response was given as of press time.

DPS’s Davis did release more information, however, although nothing on the shooter. According to Davis, the person who was shot has been identified as Vance Chastean May, 48, of Point Blank, Texas.

“Preliminary information indicates that on Aug. 6, at approximately 11:25 p.m., San Jacinto County deputies were conducting a routine safety check of a convenience store, located at 6899 US Highway 190 in Point Blank, Texas, when the officer-involved shooting occurred,” Davis reported. The shooting victim was transported to an area hospital with a gunshot wound to the upper torso, and although May’s medical outcome is still unknown, he was alive as of Aug. 9 and was expected to fully recover.

San Jacinto County Sentinel Alert investigative online journal publisher Stephen Watson said he is very familiar with May, who lives near the home of Watson’s son.

“He’s a crazy nut – with guns,” Watson said, adding that May regularly shoots off guns directed at populated areas, such as residential homes, and has even been compelled to repair property he has damaged with stray gunfire. “God answered my prayer because I asked for extra protection around me.”

As far as the shooter, Watson reports that early information alerted the local news hound that freshly minted Deputy Chase Welch was the gunman.

“Then I see that he’s been involved in two fatal shootings there (in Beaumont),” Watson said. “Those other shootings may or may not have been justified, but I think this one is going to turn out to be justified…

“Could (Deputy Welch) be too quick on the trigger? Maybe so. But this guy, Mays … he has a reputation.”

The last man Welch shot while an officer of the law – Chaz York – had a reputation, too, and was allegedly aggressive toward the police officer the night of the shooting. Welch was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing in that incident.

According to information from the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, on Dec. 7, 2016, the grand jury “declined to take action in the officer-involved shooting of Chaz York, ruling it to be justified.”

The state-provided version of events indicated that “Chaz York and associates were at Madison’s on Dowlen in Beaumont” the evening of Oct. 14 and became involved in a physical disturbance inside the business. York, and at least one other man, were asked to exit the premises and while both did comply, the altercation continued in the parking lot.

“A patron of Madison’s notified an off-duty Beaumont police officer about a disturbance that was occurring in the parking lot,” District Attorney Bob Wortham’s office reported when Welch was “no-billed” by the grand jury. “The off-duty officer exited the business wearing his police badge in an attempt to diffuse the situation.

“According to multiple witnesses, York retrieved a baseball bat from the trunk of a car. Witnesses also state that York aggressively approached the officer while brandishing the baseball bat, using vulgarity and threats. The off-duty officer gave multiple verbal instructions for York to drop the bat. York refused to comply with instructions given by the officer and continued to advance. The officer used deadly force to protect himself and others present at the scene. York was pronounced deceased at the scene.”

According to a Dec. 2, 2016, final autopsy report obtained by The Examiner, the deceased was shot a total of five times – front, back, and side to side – with two wounds proving fatal. Forensic pathologist Tommy Brown, of county-contracted Forensic Medical Management Services, performed the autopsy roughly seven hours after the deceased’s time of death, according to his report.

York’s toxicology report showed no illegal drug activity, but blood alcohol concentration of approximately 0.18, more than double the legal limit of .08 for operating a vehicle in the state of Texas.

In a separate shooting March 5, 2016, Welch responded to a trailer park on 23rd Street on a call reporting a car theft suspect in the area. After the suspect reportedly fired shots inside a trailer at the location, Herbert Edgar Ballance then held a gun to his own head. Welch fatally shot Ballance and was later cleared of any wrongdoing in that incident, as well.

Before that, the city of Beaumont paid to settle a claim of a resident who testified that, while he was out walking his dog in his own West End Beaumont neighborhood, he was accosted by Officer Welch, ordered to the ground and his person searched. In addition, Welch allegedly brandished his police firearm and threatened to shoot the man’s dog.

“Eighty, 90, 95 percent of our officers are good guys,” San Jacinto County newsman Watson said, adding that he’s not certain Welch isn’t part of that number. “The bad ones don’t stay long. The honest ones can’t stand a crooked cop.”

While Watson said he thinks it does raise some concern that Welch has been called to use his weapon multiple times in such a short time span, that doesn’t, in his opinion, make Welch a bad officer.

“Officers deserve to be able to go home at the end of the day,” he said.

San Jacinto County is in East Texas, approximately 65 miles northeast of Houston, and has a population of approximately 30,000. The San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office consists of 68 full-time employees and a 15-person reserve force, the agency reports.