COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – District Attorney Mark Jones is making a big announcement involving one of Columbus’s biggest cases. In an interview with News 3, Jones said he will be appointing a special prosecutor to bring the police officers who are allegedly involved in the death of Hector Arreola in front of a grand jury. He later confirmed to News 3 he is appointing Chris Breault as the special prosecutor in the Arreola case.
Breault is a Columbus attorney, whose private practice focuses on personal injury law. Breault helped Jones in the 2020 campaign that led Jones election to defeat three term incumbent Julia Slater.
Jones and others are facing felony criminal property charges from a campaign video in which police allege the Civic Center parking lot was damaged. Breault has represented Jones in that criminal matter.
Defense Attorney James C. Clark representing one of the alleged officers, Mike Aguilar, gave News 3 this statement regarding the news of District Attorney Mark Jones’s appointing of Chris Breault:
“My client Officer Mike Aguilar, along with Officer Brian Dudley and Officer Aaron Evrard, are very disappointed to hear that our district attorney has chosen to assign a special prosecutor to consider criminal charges in this matter. We look forward to defending these officers against any such charges. The officers involved with Mr. Arreola’s arrest showed professionalism and great restraint when faced with a very difficult situation. Mr. Arreola’s death, while tragic, was not the result of any actions taken by the Columbus Police Department officers but rather was the direct result of Mr. Arreola’s use of a lethal amount of methamphetamine coupled with resisting arrest and fighting with law-enforcement. As a result of his methamphetamine use and excited state created due to his struggle with law enforcement, Mr. Arreola unfortunately suffered a cardiac arrest and died subsequent to being placed into custody. The officers involved performed their duties flawlessly, utilizing an appropriate level of force to restrain Mr. Arreola and effectuate the arrest. We look forward to presenting the true facts of this case to the special prosecutor on behalf of these officers and are confident that any prosecutor will conclude that no case should be presented to the grand jury. We are very surprised that he would choose to appoint his former campaign manager, rather than going through the independent Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia, the organization utilized in cases in which a District Attorney has a conflict of interest.”
Clark told News 3 after he received a call from Breault, he amended his statement to remove the reference to Breault as Jones’ campaign manager.
Breault tells News 3 he was not formally nor informally involved in Jones’ campaign. His role is as Jones’ criminal defense attorney. He became Jones’ lawyer in the closing days of the campaign.
In February 2020 it was announced Jones would seek legal action against these officers. He explained his decision to hire a special prosecutor comes from his understanding of the unique challenges prosecuting police officers can bring.
“They have certain procedural, I guess safeguards in our law that make it really difficult to indict them, to go after them when something goes wrong,” said Jones. “So you know that’s one of my campaign promises was to hold police accountable so that’s what I want to do.”
The Arreola family said Jones contacted them a few months ago and let them know about the hiring of a special prosecutor.
“What we want, you know the end state, there’s accountability and there’s people held accountable and people are, you know are dealt with accordingly,” said Rodrigo Arreola, Hector Arreola’s father. “If he feels hiring a special attorney will get the job done, then by all means we’ll support that.”
The Arreola’s have a civil case against the officers that will be heading to court on Aug. 9. Jones said he’ll be waiting to bring the officers in front of a grand jury until after the civil case is finished.