SAN ANTONIO – Last year, San Antonio police saw a backslide in statistics they had worked hard to improve over the past few years.
The increased caseload for homicide detectives revealed another issue — an increase in unsolved killings.
In 2019, San Antonio’s homicide clearance rate — the percentage of investigations that resulted in identifying the gunman or the arrest of a suspect — was at roughly 70%, with roughly 30 killings that went unsolved. In 2020, that number dipped to approximately 62%, with nearly 50 killings unsolved.
It’s hard to pinpoint an exact reason for the declining clearance rate, Lt. Michelle Ramos told KSAT. With most businesses shut down in 2020 due to the pandemic, investigators likely struggled to find witnesses and surveillance images.
“But detectives face challenges in all their investigations. Sometimes it’s getting people to come forward,” Ramos said. “That’s always a challenge. But we continue to try (to find) other witnesses.”
Though 2020′s clearance rate is a step in the wrong direction, most major police departments in the country saw similar challenges. Even with the dip, the clearance rate is slightly better than the nationwide homicide clearance rate average of 61%, according to 2019 FBI data.
Homicide detectives often focus on the newest cases they’re referred to, but that doesn’t mean they forget about older cases, Ramos said.
“What happens with some of your older cases is you’ve pretty much exhausted all leads, and so you’ll hold on to that case until something new comes forward,” she said. “You’ve exhausted all leads but that doesn’t necessarily mean you put it away on the backburner. That case remains open and they’ll continue to work it.”
Among the most heinous killings in 2020 that remain unsolved is the fatal shooting of Angel Jerry Yanez, a 14-year-old student who was shot three times while walking his dog.
“I couldn’t help him,” his mother Ginger Brady told KSAT shortly after his death. “I was holding him in my arms and I saw him drenched in blood and I couldn’t help him.”
Another unsolved case also involves a teenaged victim. On March 30, 17-year-old Greg Pina was shot in killed in a drive-by shooting that instantly took his life.
The family of Xavier Esquievel, 17, still doesn’t have answers on who killed him. Esquievel was months away from being a father when he and his 19-year-old girlfriend, Vianeth Ramos-Rivera, were fatally shot as they were driving down an East Side Street.
“They were both very young,” said Esquivel’s cousin, Destiny Trejo. “He was not involved in any gangs or anything. He was doing really good in school.”
Detectives are determined to solve these cases, among several others that have not yet resulted in an arrest.
“Their end goal is to bring justice to these families,” Ramos said. “They come in overnight, they come in on holidays. They don’t take days off when they’re working these cases.”
Anyone with information on any unsolved cases is encouraged to call the homicide unit at 210-207-7635.