Message: This is a letter that I wrote but still have not sent. I’m not sure what I’m waiting on. It explains the corruption within Company C of the Texas Rangers. I have to add that on August 21, 2019 there was a meeting with TAG and the family with all LEO there and the DA. The meeting was recorded by Sheriff Nathan Lewis and then released to the public. At the end of the recording Lewis and Texas Ranger Mike Smith can be heard talking about what they would say if asked to interview with CNN. Smith says, “What do you think I’ll say if they ask me?” Lewis responds, “Kiss my ass?” Smith says, “Eat a dick.”
That speaks volumes of how close they were for one, and unprofessional for two.
I have always considered the Texas Rangers as the best of the best, the good guys in white hats. However, that was before the disappearance of Thomas Brown on November 23, 2016 from Canadian, Texas.
I now question everything I ever thought about law enforcement across the board. I am sad and mad at the same time.
Let me explain my reasons
Ranger Smith made news in Austin in 2017 having road rage in an unmarked vehicle and threatening another vehicle with a firearm.
Ranger Mike Smith has been a part of the investigation into the disappearance and death of Thomas Brown from the beginning; actually, he was involved before Thomas disappeared.
In late June of 2015, Ranger Smith was asked by Hemphill County Sheriff James Pearson to investigate an incident involving then, Lipscomb County Deputy Nathan Lewis, for Official Oppression. On his way home to Canadian after his shift in Lipscomb county, Lewis stopped Thomas Brown and two other teens in downtown Canadian. Lewis was using swear words and had Thomas get in the patrol car before letting them go. Smith decided that the incident didn’t meet the criteria for Official Oppression and he was quoted as saying, “We don’t investigate hurt feelings.” That comment was uncalled for as well as unprofessional. It could also lead to the question, did he investigate, or just chalk the incident up to hurt feelings?
That was the beginning of the prejudice and bias that has permeated this investigation.
On December 30, 2016, Major Snyder and Ranger Smith met with Nathan Lewis, the newly elected Hemphill County Sheriff and Chief Deputy Clapp regarding the Brown investigation. The following is an excerpt that was written in The Canadian Record:
Last Friday, two Texas Rangers—Major Todd Snyder of Lubbock and Ranger Michael Smith of Pampa—were briefed on the case at the Hemphill County Law Enforcement Center. Brown’s mother and stepfather, Penny and Chris Meek, and his father, Kelly Brown, were also present.
“We wanted to have a sit-down briefing with them to let them know what we’ve done, and what we’re still doing,” Lewis said, “just to ease their minds on everything.”
“We gave our whole case file—that big, white notebook over there—to them,” said Chief Deputy Clapp. “Major Snyder went through it and said, ‘Guys, you’ve done everything we would do. Every time I have a question, you guys have already asked it and have the answer.’
The Rangers’ conclusion? There was nothing that could have been done any differently.
Sheriff Nathan Lewis who later resigned
The statement made by Snyder, a Major with the Texas Rangers, saying that he would not do anything any differently, has bothered me for almost 4 years.
Lewis did not take Thomas’ case seriously from the start, and apparently neither did Snyder and Smith. The Texas Rangers are steeped in tradition and have been called one of the most effective investigative law enforcement agencies in the world. So why didn’t they investigate Tom’s case? If there was a big, white notebook on Thomas’ case, it only contained a couple of pages and here is how I know that to be true. First of all, I personally was told by the AG investigator when they took over the case, that they received 2 pages from Hemphill County SO. Then in the TCOLE recording Brent Clapp said that when the HCSO was getting ready to turn the case over to the attorney general he went Lewis and said, “you’ve got two pages in this thing.” Lastly, on February 14, 2020, ABC 7’s Niccole Caan posted a 2-page video of redacted documents she received from an open records request made to HCSO for the missing person’s report on Thomas Brown.
I can’t help but wonder where would the case be now? Would it have been solved before now?
Another issue I have is that Ranger Smith was the AG investigators boots on the ground in Canadian. It should have obvious that having Ranger Smith “investigate” Thomas’ case in light of his decision not to pursue charges against Lewis, would not be in the best interest of the investigation.
Niccole Caan and Roger Gray with ABC 7 Amarillo reported on the TCOLE investigation of Nathan Lewis on Thursday, November 14th, 2019.
They reported that in the summary of the TCOLE report, the investigating officers said, “Clapp said it wasn’t outside the realm of Lewis fabricating a document because he had manufactured a supplement for a missing person a year and half after it happened.”
ABC 7 dug deeper to find the original statements from all the deputies interviewed in the investigation. Because some of the deputies are still employed with the sheriff’s office, we agreed to protect their identities.
Here is what Clapp had to say when TCOLE investigators asked why Sheriff Lewis might fabricate the training records: “Because we’ve been through the Tom Brown mess … on that deal he manufactured a supplement a year and half after the fact,” Clapp said. “Same deal. When you write reports a year and after the fact,” Clapp said. “Same deal. When you write reports a year and after because why? Because we are getting ready to turn it all over to the attorney general and I go to him and say you have got two pages in this thing. I have got 26. You need to catch up some supplements. You need to do something. Where is your documentation? …The attorney generals came in and they wanted to know about a video that did or did not exist. It was a huge issue. [surveillance videos from] Dollar General and Fronk. And he came up with a report on that a year and half after the fact.” A second deputy also discussed the Dollar General surveillance video with a TCOLE investigator:
“Nathan always said there was never a video,” the deputy said. “Well, then after the attorney general came down to talk to me about the whole situation, he said something one day in his office. He said whenever I looked at the video from the Dollar General there wasn’t anything on there, so I threw it away.”
So, was the surveillance video viewed and discarded?
The sheriff said there was simply nothing on it.
As to the documentation of Thomas’s investigation, though memory may be imperfect a year and a half after the fact, there is no indication the report is inaccurate. The only allegation here from the deputies is that the report was largely reconstructed long after the event, information that was passed on to the attorney general’s investigators.
ABC 7 asked the attorney general for a copy of the report, and we were told that technically, it is still an open case so the documents are still confidential. We also asked the Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office for its report on the case and have not received a response.
Yet, Sheriff Lewis briefly discussed Thomas’ case with TCOLE investigators:
“We had this missing deal come up in November,” Lewis said. “I wasn’t suppose to take over until January. … I thought we did everything right. We did everything good. We had the peer reviews with the Rangers. The major of Company C said you all did a fantastic job for a small town agency up here in the Panhandle. You all did fantastic. … They said, ‘Man everything is good.’”
My question is this, what is the truth? Based on TCOLE report, and what I personally was told from the AG office, when they took over the case, they received 2 pages from Hemphill County SO.
The truth is that Lewis had his mind made up that Thomas ran away, therefore he didn’t need to worry about documentation. So when Major Snyder and Ranger Smith were briefed by Sheriff Lewis on December 30, 2016 about Tom’s case how did they come to the conclusion that the Hemphill County Sheriff Office did all the right things?
It should go without saying that using Texas Ranger Mike Smith as an investigator on Thomas’ case was without a doubt a conflict of interest, because of the incident with Nathan and Tom in the summer of 2015. Yet the AG depended on him to be their eyes and ears in Canadian.
Public Corruption Unit
The 81st session of the Texas Legislature passed HB2086; this bill created the Public Corruption Unit within the Texas Department of Public Safety, under the responsibility of the Texas Ranger Division. The Texas Rangers are committed to fighting public corruption, as it relates to public officials, law enforcement officers, and others that hold a position of public trust. Fighting corruption is vital to preserving our democracy, protecting our borders, and securing our communities.
Read about it from Texas Monthly here