By AMANDA KIMBLE
ERATH COUNTY (January 12, 2016) – Erath County Sheriff Matt Coates has officially named a chief deputy, captain and patrol sergeant.
Speaking with the Flash Thursday night, Coates said he was optimistic about the future and proceeding with a trio of top ranking officials he believes will serve citizens well.
Heath Crossland, 41, who was named chief deputy, has about two decades of law enforcement experience with the Lancaster Police Department.
Coates said while he has never worked for the same department as Crossland, they have a strong working relationship. He said Crossland was instrumental in obtaining surveillance video used in the case against Eddie Ray Routh, the man convicted of killing Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield at an Erath County hunting resort about four years ago. Routh was a Lancaster resident and fled to his residence after killing the two men.
“We have worked together on many other occasions,” Coates said. “When I work cases in the (Dallas/Fort Worth) Metroplex, Heath is the first person I call on for assistance.”
Crossland will bring extensive training in law enforcement management and officer and firearms training to the county. He has experience serving as a sergeant in criminal investigations.
Tarleton State University graduate Jesse Metcalf, 32, has spent his entire 12-year career with the Howard County Sheriff’s Office, where Coates was employed prior to moving to Erath County.
The two men worked together for a decade, and Coates said Metcalf advanced up through the ranks and received several promotions before taking over criminal investigations in Howard County when Coates left.
Meanwhile, James Groves, who has been with the Erath County Sheriff’s Office for some time, was promoted to patrol sergeant. Groves also served a stint with the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“It has been a very long process,” Coates said of the search for new officials.
In his first official act as interim sheriff, Coates suspended former Sheriff Tommy Bryant’s next in command, Chief Deputy Jason Upshaw, as well as investigators Captain Randy Fowler and Lt. Bobby Mendez and Sgt. Weldon Wilson.
The suspensions followed news of an investigation into the sheriff’s office by Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. The investigation is ongoing, and Coates said he has not been given details about the allegations or the status of the case.
Coates said that the sheriff’s office has undergone some reorganization in the last month and he does not expect to name a new lieutenant in the near future.
“I had to put a lot of thought and consideration into what was best for the department and Erath County citizens,” Coates said. “There were definitely some sleepless nights as I considered my options.”
Coates was appointed by Erath County commissioners to a two-year term as sheriff following the death of longtime Sheriff Tommy Bryant on Dec. 20.