2018-05-16 / News

Capital murder trial starts in case of death of off-duty Border Patrol agent

BY ALLEN ESSEX
Reporter

The capital murder trial of a Mexican man accused of killing an off-duty Border Patrol agent has begun in Brownsville.

Gustavo Tijerina-Sandoval, 34, is accused of shooting Javier Vega while he was fishing in Willacy County.

Sandoval-Tijerina is also accused of wounding Vega’s father in the incident.

An accomplice, Ismael Hernandez, 45, also a Mexican national, is being tried separately on a capital murder charge. Both men are from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, directly south of Brownsville. The death penalty is a possible verdict in both cases.

Both men are believed by authorities to have possible connections to a drug cartel.

Although Vega’s death was at first considered an off-duty incident, the decision by a Border Patrol panel was later reversed since Vega pulled his weapon in defense of others. This decision may affect compensation for Vega’s family.

One of the two suspects is said to be the head of a theft ring working for Mexico’s Gulf Cartel with possible ties to La MaƱa. The apparent ring objective is to find and steal four-wheel-drive vehicles like pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles. They began extorting Matamoros businesses to the point that many of them shut their operations or relocated to Brownsville.

The vehicle Vega and his family took on the Sunday fishing trip was a 4x4 pickup truck. The Ford Expedition they allegedly used during the commission of the crime was stolen.

Also, authorities have a .45- caliber handgun believed to have been used in the Vega killing. The pistol was recovered outside a house in Sebastian, police said.

Vega, his father, their wives and three youngsters were fishing Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014, along a canal about three miles east of the small community of Santa Monica.

Sheriff Larry Spence said authorities arrested Tijerina- Sandoval in connection with the slaying.

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