Speech given by Congressman Ted Poe before the House in Washington, DC - January 10, 2007
Deputy Gilmer Hernandez
Mr. Speaker, in the small border town of Rocksprings, Texas, where drug smugglers and human smugglers sneak across the Rio Grande into America, lone Deputy Sheriff Gilmer Hernandez was on patrol. In the stillness of the vast night, a speeding Suburban runs a red light. Deputy Hernandez, 25, stops the vehicle, but suddenly, without warning, the vehicle takes off. Deputy Hernandez says the vehicle tried to run him down. The lawman fires several shots, one of which shoots out the rear tire, just like in the movies.
The vehicle stops, and eight or nine illegals jump out and take off running into the sagebrush. One illegal had a minor injury from a bullet. The U.S. Government rounds up six or seven of the illegals and, guess what, prosecutes Deputy Hernandez, claiming he recklessly discharged his firearm and uses the illegals as witnesses against the lawman during a trial.
Citizens of his town are mad. One said, ``Our deputy's in jail for doing his job.''
Mr. Speaker, another example of how the Federal Government is more concerned about people illegally invading America than it is about the men who protect America. Once again, our government is on the wrong side of the border war.
And that's just the way it is.
Articlefrom the Rocksprings Record - December 21, 2006 - By Carolyn Anderson
Community remembers Deputy Gilmer as Christmas arrives.
Edwards County Deputy Sheriff Gilmer Hernandez remains in a Federal holding facility in Del Rio as the Christmas season progresses. Hernandez was found guilty by a Federal grand jury of 'willingly shooting an illegal alien' in a 2005 incident. Communitywide, feelings are this was an unjust verdict as Hernandez was only fulfilling his duties as a peace officer.
A committee has been formed to help with Hernandez and his family. Those who knew Hernandez are asked to submit letters showing their support of him due to his character and performance in our community. Letters should not be addressed to anyone, but should state who you are and how you know Gilmer.
Letters can be given or forwarded to committee members Stan Cottle, Gary Gilmer, Pastor Albert Green, Pastor Orlando Venegas, Sheriff Don Letsinger, Judge Nick Gallegos or Mayor Rachel Gallegos.
Local radio station 91,5 FM hosted by Orlando Venegas is keeping folks abreast of the situation. Hernandez' wife, Ashley, was interviewed recently, Former classmates Amy Carrillo and Roy Cottle will be on the talk show at a later date.
If you would like to send Hernandez a letter or card, his address is:
UM73969180H5A106 Guillermo F. Hernandez Val Verde Correctional Facility P.O. Box 426011 Del Rio, TX 78840-6011
The following letter was one of the 'letters of support' the committee has received.
To Whom It May Concern: To the person reading this letter, please know that our community is truly anguished in hearing of the guilty verdict returned in the case of our Guillermo 'Gilmer' Hernandez. There was never a doubt, whatsoever, that this young man was only doing his job. In my opinion, there was no crime committed on his part. I pray that our plea be heard and that steps be taken to vindicate him.
You've heard of the saying "It takes a village to raise a child". That is so true in a small community as Rocksprings, We are one family supporting our children throughout their school years and we are filled with pride in what-ever accomplishments they may have. I am very proud of Gilmer for putting himself through school at SWTJC and returning home to be productive in his community.
As a parent, I always found a sense of peace knowing that my own children (now young adults) were in his company. I knew how responsible he was and that he would bring them home safely. This is the same young man I want protecting our community. FREE GILMER FREE GILMER FREE GILMER FREE GILMER Respectfully, Rosa Cerda
San Antonio Express News reporter John MacCormack was in town last week during the tree dedication. His article about the situation appeared in last Saturday's issue of-the Express News.
Article from the Rocksprings Record - December 7,2006 - By Roy Cottle Friends of Gilmer Hernandez asked to write support letters on his behalf As many of you know Gilmer was a beloved officer and friend to many in Edwards County and beyond. He was found guilty on December 1st for basically doing his job as a peace officer. He is now in a Federal holding facility in Del Rio awaiting a March 12th sentencing date which could render a term of up to 25 years. We need as many letters as we can get from people who know Gilmer. You don't have to write a book, just what you thought of him and how you knew him. Don't address this letter to anyone because we are not sure who the judge will be. Please get this letter to me however you can. These letters will be presented to the correct officials before sentencing.
If you have any questions please call me at (830) 683-7266 or (830) 683-4116. My email is [email protected]. My address is P.O. Box 522, Rocksprings, TX 78880.
Thanks to everyone for all your help and support.
Article from the Rocksprings Record - December 7, 2006 - By Carolyn Anderson Jury finds Hernandez guilty in illegal alien case, appeal and/or sentencing to come EdwardsCounty Deputy Sheriff Guillermo Falcon Hernandez was handed down a guilty verdict last Friday, December 1, 2006 by a jury panel in the United States District Court, Wesdtern District of Texas at Del Rio. The guilty verdict was found on a Federal Grand Jury Indictment of June 7, 2006. The Grand Jury charged Count 1, On or about the 14th day of April 2005, in the Western District of Texas, Defendant, Guillermo Falcon Hernandez, while acting under color of law as an Edwards County Deputy Sheriff did shoot Maricela Rodriguez-Garcia with a dangerous weapon, to wit: a firearm, causing bodily injury to Maricela Rodriguez-Garcia and did thereby willfully deprive Maricela Rodriguez-Garcia of a right protected and secured by the Constitution and the Laws of the United States, namely the right of Maricela Rodriguez-Garcia to be free from unreasonable seizure by one acting under color of law, all in violation of Section 242 of Title 18 of the United States Code. A TRUE BILL: signed by Bill Baumann, Assistant United States Attorney, Western District of Texas. The indictment included a second Count for the same offense alleging Hernandez willfully shot a individual by the name of Candio Garcia-Perez. The jury panel found Hernandez not guilty on that Count of the indictment.
The indictment and the trial pertained to an April 14/15, 2005 incident here in Edwards County. On April 14, 2005, Deputy Hernandez was completing a 4-12 p.m. shift. Around 11:30 p.m. Deputy Hernandez took a bathroom break to his residence. While there, his fiance, Ashley Arredondo, asked him to take her to the soda machines in front of Super S Food store to purchase a drink. The two went in the patrol car, and when they finished purchasing the items Deputy Hernandez started to return Arredondo to the house. At that time, Deputy Hernandez observed a blue suburban run the stop sign at the intersection of Uvalde Road and Main street. Hernandez pulled in behind the vehicle, turned on his red lights to stop the suburban. Deputy Hernandez followed the vehicle as it continued on out State Highway 377 North. The vehicle pulled over, across the road from the Park Building, near the entrance to the T. C. Barnes property. Hernandez reported he got out of his patrol car, walked up to the driverâs side of the vehicle and observed several occupants in the car, the driver being the only one sitting up.
He instantly suspected that this was smuggled load of illegal aliens. While there, the driver of the car threw the vehicle in gear, pulling forward and turning to the left into Deputy Hernandez fleeing from and evading the deputys legal stop of the vehicle. Deputy Hernandez believing the driver was trying to run him over, drew his firearm and fired at the left rear tire of the vehicle, then a second round at the the left rear tire and a third round at the right rear tire.
The driver sped up, but having a flat on the left rear either skidded or turned into the entrance between Eddie Franco, Jr. and Mark Bean residences on the right side of the highway. The car swerved into a fence and h-brace on the side of the entrance. Deputy Hernandez got back into his patrol vehicle. Deputy Hernandez requested Border Patrol assiatance, while he and his fiance followed the fleeing vehicle to the location where it had stopped. They both observed occupants jumping and running from the vehicle. U S Border Patrol Agent Terry Hunt responded immediatedly. The men observed both front doors and the right read door of the vehicle were open. Upon inspection, a woman was found laying in the cargo area of the suburban. She was bleeding from the mouth. EMS and Sheriff Letsinger were notified immediately.
EMS personnel Pauline Erekson, Roy Cottle and Roberto Pena responded. Upon inspection of the female, they thought she had just bumped her chin in the vehicleâs impact with the h-brace. Sheriff Don Letsinger had arrived and questioned Deputy Hernandez about the incident. Hernandez informed the Sheriff that Hernandez had fired three rounds at the tires after the driver had tried to run over him. Sheriff Letsinger then informed the EMS crew that the injury could have been from a gunshot. Sheriff Letsinger requested U S Border PAIC Tommy Walker take photos for the Ranger investigation. In 1993, Edwards County Sheriff Warren Guthrie had helped implement a policy where local law enforcement officers do not to investigate themselves, but get outside authorities to do so. The photos would later be used in this investigation by the Texas Rangers and the FBI.
Ashley Arredondo telephoned her mother and she came and took Ashley home. The EMS transported the injuried female to Val Verde Hospital in Del Rio. Rocksprings Wrecker Service impounded and moved the vehicle. Deputy Hernandez was sent to the Sheriffâs Office to write up his report. Sheriff Letsinger called the Texas Ranger office in Del Rio to report that an Edwards County Deputy Sheriff was involved in a firearms discharge, which may have resulted in injury to a female passenger of a vehicle. Ranger Bobby Smith was asked to conduct an investigation into the shooting incident. Letsinger also called the Mexican Consulate and informed them that an incident had occured with suspected citizens of Mexico and a officer involved shooting incident. Sheriff Letsinger then drove to Del Rio to the hospital to check on the injured female. He met with the doctor who stated he did not believe the injury was a gunshot wound. The Doctor on further examination decided that a bullet or object could had entered through the skin below the left lower lip and exited out the right side of the mouth, only leaving one hole. The doctor wanted to send the injured female to Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio, which was approved by Sheriff Letsinger. The female, with hospital assistance, stated her identification as Maricela Rodriguez-Garcia being a resident of Mexico, She did tell Sheriff Letsinger that she was from Mexico.
Sheriff Letsinger, he returned to Rocksprings around 4 a.m. on April 15, and then reported to work at 9 a.m. that morning. Ranger Smith had returned his call and Ranger Bobby Smith would be in town during the morning of April 15. In the meantime, Letsinger had collected Hernandezâ firearm, as is customary,l and upon inspection found that four rounds appeared to have been fired from the weapon.
When Ranger Smith arrived, he took a signed statement from Hernandez. Deputy Hernandez took the Ranger to the scene of the incident. Ranger Smith recovered three 40 caliber shell casings. Shortly after retuning to the Sheriffâs office, Smith received a call from the U S Border Patrol stating that Maricela Rodriguez-Garcia was being discharged from the hospital. Also she was being pickedup by her husband, Adan Reyes Morales, address 1707 Aldridge Dr., Austin, Texas. They also stated that the Mexican Consulate was not gooing to take custody of Maricela Rodriguez-Garcia, due to a family member picking her up. Brooke Army Medical Center employee Janet Benja faxed information to Edwards County for the Ranger. Upon the request of Fred Hernandez District Attorney the impounded vehicle was brought back to the Sheriffâs Office law enforcementâs garage.
On that same day, 4-15-06, Austin Police Detective Skolaut was asked for his assistance in locating and confirming the address of Rodriguez-Garcia. He located her at her given address, but according to Skolaut, who is fluent in Spanish, he was not able to spek to Garcia due to her facial injuries. He planned to return on the following Monday to interview her.
In Hernandezâs statement to Smith, he told him that he was currently employed as a deputy for Edwards County and had been since April 1, 2004. Before that, he was a jailer for Edwards County for two years and a reserve deputy from December 15, 2003 until April 1, 2004. His statement contained the same information as presented above. He reported in his statement that he shined a flashlight into the vehicle and observed several occupants lying on the down on the seats,perhaps up to eight. From experience, he determined that these were probably illegals aliens. When he asked the driver to step out of the vehicle, Hernandez reported the driver put the car in gear and accelerated. Hernandez said, The Suburban began to move forward and to the left, toward where I was standing. At this time I drew my weapon.â
He went on to say that when the vehicleâs left rear tire came parallel with him he fired at the tire twice and the right tire once as the vehicle sped forward. He returned to his patrol car, notified dispatch and pursued the Suburban. His report continued stating that he pursued the vehicle to the private drive where it had run into a fence. He saw a male departing the vehicle, observed the others had fled, and discovered the woman as reported above.
Arredondoâs statement was similar. She stated that when Hernandez exited the vehicle, she rolled up his window and locked the doors.
In statements from Maricela Rodriguez-Garcia, Ivonne Hernandez Morales and Candido Garcia Perez, all occupants in the vehicle, they had secured a guided crossing across the Rio Grande from Acuna, Mexico for $2,000.00. They were then taken to a hotel where they stayed for several days, then transported to a rural area where they were met by a guide who would walk them around the Border Patrol check point north of Del Rio. After walking several hours, they then met a driver with the Suburban who was to take them to their destination. Four planned to go to Austin, two others to the Dallas area. With these six were the driver and guide when it continued on toward Rocksprings. In Candido Perezâ statement, he reported five shots as the driver took off from the first stop, and then he said three more shots were fired whitle they were running. Morales stated that she heard eight shots at the first stop and two more while they were running after departing the vehicle. Maricela Garcia states that she hear the sound of gunshots at the first stop, but she does not mention any after that. Morales and Perez stated that after all had left they located each other and hitchhiked to Georgetown.
Because of the statements of the individuals Ranger Smith enlisted the aid of ATF Agent Kyle Butler and ATF K-9 Simon met in Rocksprings on April 20, 2005. The Ranger, ATF Butler and the K-9 conducted a search of the initial stop location as pointed out by Deputy Hernandez. The K-9 located a fourth casing from the Deputy Hernandezâs weapon the K-9 also located a spot on the pavement where a round had hit the pavement which would have been close to the location of the left rear tire of the fleeing suburban. The K-9 located part of bullet on the north east side of US 377 near the park building. The Officers and the K-9 went to the second location. This is the area where two of the illegal aliens stated that the Deputy fired shots at them while they were fleeing the suburban. One said two shots and one said three shots at the second location. At the second location ATF-K-9 Simon did not alert on any locations in this area, did not find any bullets bullet fragments, or any shell casings. ATF Agent Butler then scanned and searched the area with a metal detector and did not locate any bullets, fragments or shell casings. Sheriff Letsinger talked with Ranger Bobby Smith about the search of the areas and Smiths investigation. Smith stated that he found evidence at the first location that confirmed what Deputy Hernandez had stated. The only exception was that there was at least four shot fired by the Deputy not three. However Smith stated that it was not unusual for Officers to mis count the number of shots they fire in such situations. Sheriff Letsinger ask Ranger Smith if Smith or the ATF Agent or the K-9 found any evidence confirming the statements of the individuals that the deputy had shot at them while they were fleeing the suburban. Ranger Smith stated to Sheriff Letsinger that there was not any evidence that the Deputy shot at the individuals fleeing the suburban and the search was through.
The Texas DPS Crime Lab assisted in processing and seaching the Suburban. A Crime Lab Team arrived on April 25 and searached the vehicle. Evidence found were projectile fragments, tooth fragments, stains, soda bottles, baseball cap, full bullet, cell phone case, papers, map, latent prints, food wrappers and items, a .40 caliber S&W pitol, ammunition, magazine and empty shell casings and slug. While processing the vehicle, entance holes were noted in the left rear tire, left rear door, the right rear tail lamp and a fragment in the right rear quarter panel.
The video taken from Deputy Hernandez' patrol car recorded several traffic stops, but the traffic stop on 4-14-05 was not recorded. Hernandez had stated earlier in his statement that his video did not work correctly.
Hernandez is now being held in Del Rio awaiting his sentencing in March of 2007. The driver and guide in the vehicle were never apprehended. None of the occupants in the Suburban were charged.