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It runs in the family: Chapa brothers honored with prestigious law enforcement award

By Marc Speir
University News Service
October 23, 2007


Anthony Chapa (left) and Paul Chapa.
(Photo courtesy Paul Chapa)

As the youngest in a family of five siblings, Paul Chapa grew up in the shadow of the eldest, Anthony. Both native to San Antonio, the pair looked up to law enforcement officials because their father was a former Marine.

Today, they both serve as leaders in different law enforcement agencies in separate parts of the country. Anthony, 53, is an executive in the United States Secret Service in Washington, D.C., and Paul, 39, operates as a law enforcement director at Texas State University-San Marcos.

The Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association (HAPCOA) is awarding the two brothers, both nominated independently by members of their respective agencies, the highest honor for Hispanic law enforcement in the nation, the “Aguila” (Eagle) Award.

“It’s a complete coincidence,” said executive director of HAPCOA Lee Roy Villareal. “This has never happened before in my 34 years with the association and I doubt it will ever happen again.”

The pair is awaiting HAPCOA’s 34th annual national training conference in Las Vegas from Oct. 22-26, where they are to be honored with the association’s most coveted prize.

Anthony is being recognized for more than 20 years of diligence with the Secret Service, while Paul will be honored for his visionary leadership and actions taken to protect and prevent the Texas State community from becoming victim to a violent act.

The brothers took different paths after Anthony’s graduation from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1972 and a job with the San Antonio Police Department in 1981. He accepted a position with the Secret Service in 1986, in a career that has included assignments protecting Al Gore in the Vice Presidential Protective Division and a position at the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia.

Anthony has also served on protective details for four sitting U.S. presidents and two former presidents.

He would ultimately rise to the position of deputy assistant director in the Office of Protective Research, an agency responsible for evaluating sensitive information and protecting the technical side of the White House. Through the years, Anthony gave his brother advice he’d picked up by moving up the ranks.

“Education is one thing that I stressed and is the major tool we’ve both embraced in our law enforcement careers,” Anthony Chapa said. “The candidates that are selected as chiefs are the ones that have strong backgrounds in academia, experience and training.”

Paul, more than 10 years Anthony’s junior, graduated from the San Antonio College Law Enforcement Academy and joined the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office at 21 years old. Shortly after, he was hired at St. Mary’s University Police Department in June 1991. 

In July 2002, Paul was selected by the Texas State University Police Department to serve as assistant director and captain of operations. He currently doubles as a student at Texas State, pursuing a master’s degree in organizational leadership.

“My brother has a master’s degree and has mentored me through the years to move up,” Paul Chapa said. “A degree makes you a more viable candidate if you’re trying to get there.”

While Anthony’s recognition is due to his extensive service, Paul’s award is a special recognition for averting a potential crisis at Texas State.

In the aftermath of the April 16, 2007, shooting at Virginia Tech that left 33 dead and 29 injured, the campus at Texas State--one that mirrors Virginia Tech in size and enrollment--underwent an alarming period.

Four bomb threats and an active shooter alert were phoned into the school within 11 days following the incident at Virginia Tech.

With an enrollment of around 28,000 students, the campus houses 7,000 residents and relies on a police force of 32 officers to protect them. Paul assigned officers to guard dormitories and follow up on leads stemming from the threats.

He utilized his FBI National Academy training and contacts to educate university officials on how to effectively respond with procedural and tactical maneuvers and ensure proper communication.

“It was a real tense time and everyone was looking for answers,” Paul Chapa said. “Our first commitment, and (Texas State) President (Denise) Trauth’s, was to ensure that we had a safe campus.”

With commencement ceremonies scheduled May 11 and 12, an imminent attack was reported to the University Police Department. A female contacted the department May 5 about an unstable former student that was acting erratically in the days leading up to spring graduation. 

“She knew he had issues and said that he’d spoken about hurting himself and others,” Paul Chapa said. “He displayed weapons to her and would place them in his mouth. He was acting very paranoid.”

Paul directed several of his investigators to follow up on the claims, discovering that the individual in question had recently been institutionalized and released but had refused to follow up with his treatment.

The former student had also lied about his institutionalization at the pawnshop where he purchased the guns.

Upon coordinating with the University Police, the San Marcos Police Department located the subject in a traffic stop and took him into protective custody. The individual was in possession of an SKS assault rifle and a .45-caliber long revolver.

“Look at Virginia Tech--(Cho Seung-Hui) had spoken to others about what he was going to do and planned it out,” Paul Chapa said. “In this case, we had to identify a similar threat and move on it aggressively.”

The former student was put under a 30-day order of protective custody by a judge so psychiatric evaluations could be performed and help provided.

Texas State thanked the University Police by sponsoring a campus-wide reception in recognition of the department’s foresight and accelerated response.

To this day, Paul credits much of his success to his brother.

“I’m not sure I’d be where I am today without the mentorship of my brother,” Paul Chapa said. “We’re both very honored to receive the award and I look forward to seeing him again.”

The brothers may not have as much face time with each other as when they were kids, but Anthony says they still talk seven to eight times a week by phone.

“That’s on a slow week,” a chuckling Anthony Chapa said. “One thing I’d like to get across is that having these mentoring relationships works.”