AUSTIN (KXAN) – The name VonTrey Jamal Clark is now known around the world. He’s the former Austin police officer who traveled to Bali, Indonesia six months after the killing of the woman he told investigators was the mother of his unborn baby. On Oct. 21, a Bastrop County grand jury indicted Clark on a charge of capital murder.
But Clark’s history in Central Texas is not so clear cut.
Over the past few months, KXAN has combed through public records and reached out to Clark’s father, Bobby Clark, as well as numerous relatives and friends. No immediate family members would agree to be quoted or share much in the way of where Clark grew up, who he spent time with as a boy or a teenager.
KXAN did find photos of Clark when he attended Austin's Reagan High School. One shows a young Vontrey (circled) as a sophomore and a member of the school's winning Jr. Varsity basketball team.
It’s not entirely surprising clues to Clark’s more recent background are somewhat vague. As a police officer, his social media presence is limited. And because he worked as a police officer, his personnel file is not public, protected under State law from release. Those records typically include a job application, list of references and Police Academy test scores. It can also include any internal discipline he might have received.
We do know from Clark’s public record with the Texas Commission On Law Enforcement (TCOLE) he attended:
- Southern Nazarene University (Oklahoma City, OK) - 3 credits
- Navarro College (main campus in Corsicana, TX) – 16 credits
- Austin Community College - 54 credits
KXAN reached out to those academic institutions for confirmation Clark attended. We did not immediately hear back.
TCOLE records show Clark received his Texas peace officer’s license March 21st, 2012
In March, 2015 KXAN interviewed the mother of one of Clark’s close friends from when he attended high school in Austin. Denise Hill says her son Kevin Leo Watson and Clark were ‘play buddies’ and on a number of occasions Clark stayed for dinner at the family’s home.
At the time KXAN interviewed her, Hill said she couldn’t remember which school her son or Clark attended or when. She admitted having suffered a brain injury that has left gaps in her memory.
A year later, on p. 33 of his ‘junior’ yearbook a teenaged Vontrey Clark smiled shyly for the camera.
There is no record he graduated from Reagan High in the 2000-2001 school year. Student school academic records are private in Texas.
And what Clark did in the ensuing years is unclear in the public record.
KXAN found a record indicating in 2008 Clark may have worked at PPD Development. A website shows it is a pharmaceutical development firm. It has an Austin address near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. A call went unreturned from corporate offices in North Carolina confirming if he worked there or for how long.
What is clear is that Clark graduated the Austin Police Department's rigorous Police Academy in the winter of 2012. He was part of the 120th class among 36 other rookies. City employment records show he started the Academy the prior August.
In Austin, the police chief often stages a special running event down Congress Avenue from the Capitol to showcase graduating police officers. It’s a bid to bring the class and the community together. Clark’s class, the 120th was no exception.
Dressed in jogging shorts and a gray tee-shirt emblazoned with his name on the back, Clark lined up that morning with his classmates for a pep talk then a run through downtown. Coincidently, KXAN interviewed the rookie Clark during the event. He was enthusiastic and spoke about the Chief’s participation.
He told the KXAN News camera “It's incredible... I mean this is the guy you see on TV this is the face of our department. It means a lot for him to come out and run with us because it shows us that he's behind us 100 percent," a 28 year-old Clark said at the time.
The Chief’s backing of this one-time rookie officer would drop to ‘zero’ per cent. July 23, 2015. That’s when a clearly angry chief would publicly eviscerate Clark after the Department ruled he went AWOL when he flew to Indonesia days after the Internal Affairs Division ordered him to appear before investigators. The Chief would even refuse to call the newly-fired officer by his rank.
“If you have any dignity, if you have any semblance of humanity left in you, Mr. Clark, get back on that plane and come back here to Austin,” Chief Acevedo told a news conference adding he suspected Clark would see the coverage. KXAN later learned Clark stayed in several hotels in Bali before local authorities arrested him on a Red Notice through Interpol.
On July 27, 2015 the police legal support group known as CLEAT would send a letter appealing the indefinite suspension calling for an independent third party to sort it out. That would only likely happen if Clark is acquitted of the capital murder charge against him.
Within two years of graduating the academy, 3/6/2014 Vontrey Clark would be granted an intermediate peace officer license. That meant he had completed numerous hours of law enforcement course work – including training in areas such as:
- 8/7/2013 operating in low light
- 5/14/2013 breaching
- 11/7/2012 active shooter training at Hays CO SO Academy (ALERRT) 16 hours
A Suspension and Commendations
In his three years at APD, Clark was suspended one time – for three days in February 2013. An APD disciplinary memo shows in December 2012 Clark was driving fast to catch up to a suspect who ran a stop sign. “Clark lost control of his vehicle, damaging his unit and private property,” the memo reads.
APD dash camera video KXAN requested shows a clearly-shaken Officer Clark being comforted by other arriving officers who ask him to sit on the hood of a patrol car while they offer support and pats on Clark’s shoulder. Later, one is heard saying out of camera range, “Don’t beat yourself up over this. Don’t think you’re the first person this has ever happened to.”
Clark’s short-lived career with APD also included some public recognition.
Two commendations grace Clark’s public civil service file. The first came after his work early on the 4th of July 2013 – when then Ofc. Clark was first on scene of an apartment fire (1071 Clayton Lane (Cameron Road area). The narrative explains Clark banged on doors and quickly directed residents to safety as he radioed for assistance.
One Lt. wrote “Outstanding work!” Another supervisor: “Awesome work! Thanks for all you do every day.”
Vontrey Clark’s second commendation would come less than four weeks later (July 27th) came after Clark spotted a suspect in an attempted sex assault sleeping in a rented car in North Austin.
The praise reads: “Ofc. Clark formulated a plan to safety extract the suspect… the extra effort of Ofc. Clark clearly… prevented the suspect from sexually assaulting…another innocent woman.”
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