A former Rocky Ford police officer was arrested Tuesday after a joint investigation with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation led authorities to accuse him of stealing three guns that had been seized as evidence, court documents said.
George Ibarra, 42, was employed as a police officer with the department when he allegedly took guns that had been confiscated by police last year, according to an arrest affidavit by the Otero County Sheriff’s Office and CBI. He is accused of tampering with evidence, a felony, official misconduct and theft, both misdemeanors.
Ibarra was turned in by his girlfriend, who provided police photos of two guns that were confirmed missing and told them she and Ibarra dumped them in a river, court documents said. Investigators later found another gun in a shed on her property.
Police confiscated a 9mm handgun and $160 worth of ammunition while responding to a domestic violence call in June 2022, but could not find the items at the department to return them to their owner after the case was closed. Last month, a deputy with the Otero County Sheriff’s Office learned about two additional guns that had gone missing.
Ibarra’s body-worn camera footage shows him putting the gun confiscated from the domestic violence call into a backpack and then into the trunk of his patrol car. A deputy told CBI that the Rocky Ford police department was transitioning its evidence to a new storage facility at the same time officers were handling the domestic violence call, court documents said.
An officer with Rocky Ford Police Department told an investigator with CBI that Ibarra was known for leaving evidence strewn around the office. The officer said Ibarra quit the department in September 2022, leaving many cases open and tickets unserved.
The officer also said there was another case involving missing evidence at the department, but it did not involve Ibarra.
Then-acting Rocky Ford Police Chief Angelo Griego told CBI that Ibarra “was spoken to” about the missing evidence, but was not disciplined, according to court documents.
The Rocky Ford police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Speaking to investigators, Ibarra said he did not remember putting the evidence into his patrol car. He said he couldn’t think of a reason why he would not enter the backpack or items inside it into evidence, but said that there was no evidence custodian at the time and it was “common practice” not to enter evidence “if they were just for safekeeping until the owner could pick them up.”
Ibarra said he left the department because of “possible liability issues with some of the practices the department had with evidence,” according to court documents. “He refused to enter the actual evidence room because he never wanted to be accused of something like this.”
Following his arrest, Ibarra was booked into Bent County jail, according to the CBI. Online court records show a judge set bond at $3,000.
His next scheduled court appearance is set for Sept. 21.
The Rocky Ford Police Department previously fell under scrutiny in 2014 after former Rocky Ford police officer James Ashby shot and killed unarmed 27-year-old Jack Jacquez. Ashby was sentenced to 16 years in prison for Jacquez’s murder. Following Ashby’s conviction, residents called for more accountability and transparency within the department, according to a 2018 Westword report.