Inmates disabled cell door to attack cellmate inside Bexar County Jail, sheriff says

Sheriff Salazar says inmate died in jail infirmary

Sheriff Javier Salazar explains what went wrong at the Bexar County Jail after an inmate was killed by 2 gang members.

SAN ANTONIO – Tensions are high inside the Bexar County Jail after a deadly attack of an inmate at the hands of two other inmates Sunday morning, according to the sheriff’s office.

“We’re waiting for retaliation. We’re waiting on the other shoe to drop,” Bexar County Sheriff Salazar said. “If there was ever a reason to increase safety and security, this is it. This is what our special operations groups trained for, and I can tell you our SWAT team is ready to respond.”

Vincent García, 40, was booked into Bexar County Jail in August 2021. He was accused of aggravated robbery and had an out-of-county warrant for assault causing bodily injury.

García was an identified Texas Mexican Mafia gang member, according to Salazar.

García had been assigned to a unit where fellow Texas Mexican Mafia members lived. The two inmates suspected of attacking García were identified as Ernesto Tavera, 50, and Brandon Lerma, 28.

“We house (gang members) together to avoid them going out and recruiting from within the rest of the inmate population, extorting other inmates out of commissary, assaulting other inmates, assaulting members of rival organizations,” Salazar said.

During routine unit checks Sunday morning, García had asked to speak privately to the deputy on duty about his living situation. However, Salazar said García didn’t provide many details.

“All that he said was that he was uncomfortable in the living unit,” Salazar said.

The deputy removed García from the cell and escorted him near the security hub of the area.

“The secured area we call the picket, which is an enclosed area which houses all of the controls that control all of the doors for the for the living unit,” Salazar said. “(It is) where the deputies can maintain two-way communications with each cell.”

Moments later, a BCSO cadet noticed warning lights (inside the enclosed area) activate, indicating a cell door had been disabled.

“He observed that one of the warning lights on the control panel lit up, which indicated the door was opening,” Salazar said. “Prior to that point, all those lights had been off, which indicated that all the doors were secured. However, one light came on, and the cadet says that he looked up from the console and saw two inmates rushing out of the cell and rushing toward the deputy and the inmate.”

The cadet and deputy took cover inside the security control room.

“The cadet was able to open up the door, and the deputy retreated into the picket area,” Salazar said. “They were then able to secure the door (to the picket area). They then observed the two inmates (Lerma and Tavera). The suspects attacked the victim inmate and began what they believed was a fight. That assault moved back and forth from the area. The cadet was (later) able to open up another door, which let the victim escape that area. He then closed the door behind that victim.”

The BCSO Search Team was called for help.

“(The search team) made contact with the two suspects close to the bathroom shower area,” Salazar said. “They were taken into custody without incident at that point, and they were all brought down to the infirmary. The victim additionally was brought down to the infirmary, where a short while later he expired due to his injuries.”

García was stabbed multiple times.

“His injuries consisted of a series of stab wounds to the upper body, and at this point, we don’t have an exact cause of death,” Salazar said.

Lerma and Tavera were transferred to a higher security unit within the Bexar County Jail as the Texas Rangers took over the investigation.

The deputy and cadet that witnessed the attack were not identified. They’re on administrative leave as part of the investigation.


Bexar County Jail inmate dies after alleged assault by gang members, sheriff’s office says

About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.