An Hidalgo County Sheriff’s dash cam video recently helped convict an alleged member of the Gulf Cartel involved in an October 2011 shootout with two deputies, both who survived.
Tony Orendain, the Hidalgo County assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case in December, said Jose Luis Alvarez, the driver who was convicted, told deputy Manuel Morales he was a member of the Gulf Cartel that controls much of the drug trafficking through the Rio Grande Valley.
“He also said that ‘el commandante’ is watching, so he wasn’t going to say anymore,” Orendain said.
Orendain said although he is not certain Alvarez or his passenger, Daniel Perez, were cartel members, “They behaved like you’d expect cartel members to behave.”
The prosecutor said deputies Morales and Hugo Rodriguez had been on the alert for two kidnapping victims taken from a mobile home after a drug deal went sour.
Orendain said despite being given the wrong vehicle description, the deputies pulled over the truck unaware the kidnapping victims were in the back seat.
He said as deputy Morales questioned the driver, deputy Rodriguez, wearing a bulletproof vest, was shot three times by the passenger as he emerged from the truck.
However, Orendain said the wounded deputy still managed to return fire while on his back, training he’d undergone a week earlier.
“That’s why you see both of the guys go down cause he’s still shooting,” Orendain said.
Orendain said the passenger was killed, the driver’s head was grazed by gunfire, and one of the kidnap victims had a minor wound to his hand.
Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino described the shootout as the county’s first instance of spillover violence.
Orendain said he understands why the sheriff would say that, but the Rio Grande Valley being so close to the border has always seen its share of drug related violence.
“It’s just a matter of now we’ve got the cartels trying to operate in our county and we’re trying to stop them,” Orendain said.
He said an Hidalgo County jury did its part by sentencing Alvarez to 15 years on two counts of attempted capital murder.
However, Orendain said just seating the jury proved to be a challenge because of the defendant’s alleged ties to the Gulf Cartel.
Orendain said although some potential jurors said they would automatically find Alvarez guilty, others were nervous about being chosen for the trial.
“They couldn’t even render a guilty verdict because they were afraid of the repercussions,” Orendain said.
He said the trial was conducted under tight security, and since then, the sheriff had received some threats, but a suspect recently was taken into custody.