San Marcos Police Department Chief of Operations Brandon Winkenwerder and Cpl. Matthew Daenzer were added to a lawsuit involving an incident that occurred between a Biden-Harris campaign bus and supporters of former President Donald Trump on Oct. 30, 2020. Screenshot from lawsuit
2 SMPD officers added to Biden Bus lawsuit as 911 transcripts show police dismissed calls for escort through San Marcos
Two San Marcos Police Department officers were added to a lawsuit stemming from a Biden campaign bus incident that occurred a year ago.
SMPD Assistant Chief of Operations Brandon Winkenwerder and Cpl. Matthew Daenzer were added to the amended lawsuit, which was filed late Friday. City of San Marcos Director of Public Safety Chase Stapp and the City of San Marcos were previously listed as defendants in the lawsuit brought forward by former State Sen. Wendy Davis, a Biden campaign volunteer, campaign staffer and a bus driver, who claim that Stapp and the San Marcos Police Department failed to provide them protection as the Biden-Harris bus drove through San Marcos on Interstate 35.
The City of San Marcos did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the addition of Winkenwerder and Daenzer to the amended lawsuit.
In the amended file, transcribed 911 audio and additional documents also shows communications between SMPD, the New Braunfels Police Department and Biden campaign staff during the incident.
On Oct. 30, 2020, the Biden-Harris campaign was scheduled to make a stop in San Marcos for an event at Texas State University. The bus traveled from San Antonio up I-35, and was surrounded and followed by supporters of former President Donald Trump who formed a self-labeled “Trump Train,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit claims that the plaintiffs were “targets of a conspiracy to ambush the Biden-Harris Campaign bus on I-35.”
“For at least 90 minutes, including during the entirety of the stretch of I-35 inside the San Marcos city lines, the Trump Train pursued and terrorized the plaintiffs,” the lawsuit says. “Plaintiffs tried to get help. They repeatedly called 911. They requested police escorts. San Marcos refused to help.”
The lawsuit claims the defendants violated the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 by failing to “take reasonable steps to protect Plaintiffs from an unlawful civil rights conspiracy and/or refused to send a police escort to aid the bus, despite being asked to provide one.”
The planned event at Texas State was a part of the several stops scheduled by the Biden campaign in the state during the final days of the 2020 presidential election.
The lawsuit claims that Stapp was notified of the upcoming event on Oct. 29, 2020. Additionally, the complaint states that then-Interim Chief of Police Bob Klett emailed all SMPD police commanders, including Stapp and Winkenwerder, on the same day, notifying them of the planned campaign stop. The lawsuit also claims that “neither Defendant Stapp, Defendant Winkenwerder nor the SMPD made preparations to respond to any safety issues involving the Bus Tour, nor did they alert the Hays County Sheriff’s Office of the event the next day in San Marcos.”
On Oct. 30, 2020, as the bus began to travel north on Interstate 35, it was surrounded by the “Trump Train,” after leaving San Antonio. The lawsuit says in New Braunfels, a Biden Campaign staff member called 911 and the New Braunfels Police Department sent vehicles to I-35. The complaint also states that the “Trump Train” picked up speed and “curbed its harassment of the bus passengers and escorting vehicles” when NBPD officers arrived.
At approximately 3:15 p.m., a Biden supporter called Stapp explaining the situation, the lawsuit says, adding that Stapp assured the supporter that SMPD would assist the bus. Stapp, however, did not order an escort and “forwarded the information” to Winkenwerder by email, who only asked that officers “close patrol” the area near the university, the lawsuit alleges.
At approximately 3:19 p.m., NBPD 911 dispatch called SMPD dispatch, attempting to arrange a handoff of New Braunfels’ escort to San Marcos. In a conversation between an SMPD dispatcher and Daezner, she said she was “annoyed at New Braunfels for doing this to us.”
“They have their officers escorting the Biden bus, essentially, and the Trump Train is cutting in between vehicles and driving — being aggressive and slowing them down to like 20 or 30 miles per hour. And they want you guys to respond,” the dispatcher said in transcribed audio records.
Daenzer said they were not going to escort the bus. “We will close patrol that, but we’re not going to escort a bus,” he told the dispatcher.
The dispatcher said a Biden campaign staffer who called 911 and was transferred to SMPD from NBPD was “really worked up over” the “Trump Train.” Daenzer later suggested to the dispatcher that they should “drive defensively.”
“Or leave the train. There’s an idea,” the dispatcher said.
The dispatcher later told the campaign staffer that SMPD would not be escorting the bus. “If you feel like you’re being threatened or your life is threatened, definitely call us back.” The staffer responded by asking if the dispatcher was serious, later stating that, “They’ve cut in on me multiple times. They’ve threatened my life on multiple occasions with vehicular collision. I would like an escort immediately.”
The dispatcher reiterated that SMPD would not provide an escort. “(SMPD officers) are going to be in the area to monitor any traffic infractions, but they are not there to escort. This is from our chief,” the dispatcher said, referring to Winkenwerder as the “chief,” according to the amended complaint.
The campaign bus entered San Marcos city limits around 3:26 p.m. The complaint claims the situation escalated on I-35 in San Marcos between 3:26-3:30 p.m. The plaintiffs ultimately chose to cancel the event at Texas State.
The amended lawsuit alleges that without a police escort through San Marcos, “the Trump Train became emboldened.”
Viral videos show the campaign bus driving through San Marcos, which ultimately culminated in a collision between an SUV following the bus and a black truck that was a part of a group of Trump supporters on northbound Interstate 35 near Exit 210.
As the campaign bus arrived in Kyle, plaintiffs were able to relay their concerns to the Kyle Police Department, which said officers would assist them. “Shortly thereafter, a police escort arrived in Kyle, granting the bus a short reprieve,” the lawsuit said.
The bus’s 77-mile trip from the AT&T Center in San Antonio to the AFL-CIO in Austin took 2.5 hours, the lawsuit said.
Following the incident, the complaint alleges that SMPD officers “poked fun at the attack,” providing documentation of text message exchanges. In one, an unidentified officer referred to those on the bus as a derogatory slang term for someone mentally disabled.
The day after the incident, Stapp messaged several officers regarding the incident, saying, “from what I can gather, the Biden bus never even exited I-35 thanks to the Trump train.”
Officers, however, later labeled the incident as a “debacle,” realizing what occurred in San Marcos could “lead to political and legal consequences,” the lawsuit claims. Additionally, in emails officers braced themselves for a “political firestorm,” the lawsuit alleges.
Following last year’s incident, a City of San Marcos spokesperson told the Daily Record on Nov. 2, “due to the excessive amount of traffic they were not able to catch up to the bus before it exited our jurisdiction.”
In a report written on Nov. 4, Daenzer wrote, “Due to staffing issues, lack of time to plan, and lack of knowledge of the route, we were unable to provide an escort.”