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AG’s Office & Port Neches police chief detail child porn arrest. PN fire chief bails out & has been fired.

PORT NECHES — Paul Nelson, fire chief in Port Neches, was arrested in City Hall on Wednesday and jailed on two promotion of child pornography charges.

The warrants followed an investigation by the Texas Attorney General’s Child Exploitation Unit.

The warrants are the result of a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children CyberTipline Report from a social media site involving the transmission and receipt of child pornography through private messages.

Kayleigh Date, Attorney General’s Office press secretary, could not confirm if the investigation settled on only one suspect but said Thursday only one arrest has been made.

“Digital devices were seized, and they are being examined right now by our digital forensics unit,” Date said. “They were taken from the residence. That’s all I can confirm at this time.”

Date said she could not elaborate on where authorities believe the child-porn pictures originated.

Nelson, 54, posted a $50,000 bond and has been released from Jefferson County Jail.

He has been terminated from his post, and assistant fire chief Mike Stegall has been designated acting fire chief, a city leader said.

Nelson was hired in 2016 and replaced former fire chief Stephen Curran.

The arrest came as a shock to city leaders.

“As you would expect with most of these types of situations, it certainly was a surprise,” Port Neches City Manager André Wimer.

Wimer deferred other questions to the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

Mayor Glenn Johnson deferred questions to Port Neches Police Chief Paul Lemoine, who said he was aware of the investigation before Wednesday’s arrest.

Lemoine said he was the officer who told Nelson of the charges during the arrest.

The veteran law enforcement officer said his reaction to the charges was “nauseating more” than anything else.

“It’s a reaction of disbelief that a person could do this, knowing they are going to get caught,” Lemoine said. “Then you wonder about just how prevalent this is out there. It’s disappointing. You feel like you are violated – the public’s trust and your trust.”

Lemoine said he is especially concerned for members of the Port Neches Fire Department, who he does not want implicated because of charges focused on a single suspect.

Lemoine said he is also worried about members of the public who might feel the implication of a public official in a criminal act would make them not want to trust local authorities.

“We don’t want them to feel that, feel that hopelessness,” he said. “This is that 1/10 of 1 percent that ever engages in this kind of stuff. We want the community to still be able to trust us, to come to us. If you see things and report things to us, that’s the only way you can stem these types of activities.”

According to the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, a person commits the offense of Promotion of Child Pornography if the person knowingly or intentionally promotes or possesses with intent to promote visual material that visually depicts, and that the person knows depicts, a child younger than 18 years of age engaging in sexual conduct. (Texas Penal Code Section 43.26). Promotion of Child Pornography is a second-degree felony offense. The range of punishment is two (2) to twenty (20) years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

— Port Arthur Newsmedia staff members Mary Meaux and Stephen Hemelt contributed to this report.