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Mechanic claims he was falsely accused of stealing officer's car

Mechanic claims officer falsely accused him of stealing officer's car
Posted at 9:22 PM, Jul 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-15 23:10:55-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Corpus Christi mechanic accused a local police officer of not paying for thousands of dollars of repairs he claims he made to the officer’s car.

And that’s not all.

Bryant Johnson of Redline Automotive says Odem Police Department Sgt. Michael Cantu then tried to have Corpus Christi Police arrest him for supposedly stealing that car.

“I asked them what they were doing, and they told me, ‘Do you own this car?" Johnson said while detailing the conversation he says he had with CCPD officers. "And I told them, ’No, it’s a customer’s car, and they’re picking it up tomorrow.’ He said, ‘Well, the customer called this car in stolen.’ And I told him, ’No, that can’t be true, because I have all my paperwork and so forth.”

That paperwork includes an invoice Johnson claims to have filled out that lists $4,726.50 worth of parts and labor for repairs on a car supposedly belonging to Cantu.

Multiple attempts to make contact with Cantu were unsuccessful, and Odem Police Chief Gerardo Ochoa didn’t want to comment on what he called a personal — not a police — matter.

Ochoa, who hired Cantu in July of 2020, was also reluctant to discuss two alleged incidents involving Cantu while he worked for previous employers.

Cantu resigned as Driscoll Police Chief in June of 2016 during an investigation into allegations he stole drugs from a locker at the police station.

Charges were never filed, and Cantu was quoted at the time as saying, “All allegations against me are false, and I disavow of them totally.”

Records from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement show that he returned to the Driscoll Police Department as chief in November 2018 with his end of service date there the same date as his hiring in Odem.

Prior to that, Cantu was fired from his job as Corpus Christi Deputy City Marshall in May of 2014 for a number of alleged causes including failing to obey superiors’ orders and excessive tardiness.

Weeks before, he wrote a letter to the city’s Director of Human Resources claiming that his superiors were retaliating against him for reporting a crime to another law enforcement agency.

Cantu sued the city for wrongful termination, and that lawsuit is still active.

As for the conflict with Johnson, Corpus Christi Police impounded the car in question after Cantu claimed it was stolen.

A judge will determine what happens to it during a property hearing that hasn’t been scheduled.

A CCPD spokesperson says Johnson will not face charges, and that the investigation is still ongoing.

Johnson says he’s still owed the almost $5,000 for car repairs, and he hopes the investigation clears his name — keeping him from further financial losses.

He also hopes Cantu will be reprimanded for trying to have him prosecuted as a car thief.

"I think that he should have some kind of discipline,” Johnson said. “Because if I’d have went to jail, that’s stopping me. That’s stopping my business, and that’s stopping me from providing for my family."