Rookie cop plays instrumental role in Richmond murder investigation

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – A Richmond police officer’s work is being described as ‘unusual’ by his superiors. Officials with the major crimes unit told 8News on Wednesday how a rookie cop played a major role in a brutal murder case.

Officer Oscar Reyes acted as a Spanish translator throughout the June 13 homicide investigation, making contact with key witnesses that led to a clean prosecution in late November. Department heads said this may be a first for the Richmond Police Department.

“He just picked up right with us, he fell into place, and helped our detectives very early in the investigation,” said Sgt. Rick Edwards.

RPD credited the young officer, for helping put a convicted killer behind bars.

“I wanted to see everything come out correctly,” Reyes told Richmond city reporter Matthew McClellan. On November 30, a jury found Jose Saldanes-Villalobos guilty in the first-degree murder of a Chesterfield County man. Saldanes-Villalobos will spend up to 50 years in jail.

“Everyone involved, from our victim to the suspect, did not have command of the English language and all spoke Spanish,” Sgt. Edwards explained at Richmond Police Headquarters.

Officer Reyes had just graduated police academy when he got the call in June.

“They said they needed a Spanish-speaking officer, that’s when I got pulled to go help with translation,” the second precinct officer said.

He arrived at Southwood apartments to find a woman who’d been assaulted.

“She had marks on her head, and on her throat as well,” said Reyes. The woman had witnessed Saldanes-Villalobos use a phone cord to strangle her male friend. “Seeing the type of things she’d seen and been through, it kind of touched me.”

Translating for the woman with detectives, Reyes convinced her to seek medical treatment for her injuries, adding further evidence against Saldanes-Villalobos in the investigation.

“At first she didn’t want to talk at all. Then I had to let her know, ‘we’re here to help you.’”

After Saldanes-Villalobos was arrested, Officer Reyes stayed with the case all the way into the trial and prosecution.

“Your average officer, you deal with your shift that day; when it’s quitting time you finish your last call and you go home,” said Sgt. Edwards.

Reyes, however, made countless phone calls, even tracking down witnesses in person during his shift to serve subpoenas.

“Keeping witnesses on board, talking to family members, preparing for the trial is where he really stood out,” Sgt. Edwards told 8News.

Without his dedication, detectives said the case would not have been as clean to prosecute.

“It’s not just the Spanish language; it was having a person these witnesses felt comfortable with during the process,” said the sergeant.

Officer Reyes said that after being on the inside of a homicide investigation, he’s looking forward to a future as a detective in his own right.

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