San Benito police officer killed, suspects arrested after vehicle pursuits end in gunfire

Rodrigo Axel Espinoza Valdez and Rogelio Martinez are facing multiple charges, including capital murder

(From left): Rogelio Martinez and Rodrigo Axel Espinoza Valdez are facing multiple charges, including capital murder. (KSAT/Cameron County)

CAMERON COUNTY, Texas – A shooting stemming from two separate vehicle pursuits in Cameron County claimed the life of a San Benito police officer, according to reports.

The two suspects accused in the shooting have since been arrested.

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Authorities said the first traffic stop began around 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, at South Padre Island, according to a report from KRGV.

Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz said during a press conference Wednesday that a GMC truck with two men, two women and two children inside was stopped by Cameron County Park Police for speeding on the beach.

During the traffic stop, the driver was taken to the back of the vehicle for questioning when a passenger jumped into the driver’s seat and started the truck, KRGV reports.

The driver who was speaking with officers then got into the truck’s bed, and they sped away from authorities.

Minutes later, the truck had made its way to Port Isabel and Cameron County deputies and Texas Dept. of Public Safety troopers chased them, the DA said.

Gunfire was exchanged between the suspects and the officers when the pursuit reached Brownsville, KRGV reports.

Eventually, the truck pulled over and the two male suspects got out and ran from the scene. The women and children were found with the stopped truck, and police took the women in for questioning, according to the DA. It’s unknown if any of them are facing charges.

Around 10:30 p.m. that evening, the two suspects were found traveling in a black Ford Expedition and they led authorities on another chase.

Lt. Milton Resendez saw the suspects’ vehicle in the 11000 block of North Sam Houston Blvd and joined the pursuit.

The suspects fired several rounds at Resendez, and he was struck in his abdomen below his body armor, San Benito Police Chief Mario Perea told KRGV.

“From the information we have, two rounds struck Lt. Resendez’s police unit. One through the front bumper and one through the driver-side door. The round that hit the driver side door penetrated the body of the door and struck Resendez in his abdomen just below his body armor,” Perea told KRGV. “When he did not respond to his radio, [officers] immediately went to check on him and found Lt. Resendez unresponsive in the driver seat.”

Resendez was taken to Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, where he later died from his injuries, KRGV reports.

The chase continued as the suspects returned to Brownsville, but authorities were able to use a PIT maneuver to stop their vehicle. The suspects then tried to get away on foot but were later arrested.

Police identified the suspects as Rodrigo Axel Espinoza Valdez, of Mexico, and Rogelio Martinez, 18, from Brownsville, KRGV reports. Both are facing charges of evading arrest, agg. assault with a deadly weapon and capital murder.

Resendez served as a police officer for 30 years, according to KRGV.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, sending condolences to the San Benito Police Department.

“Hearts across Texas grieve with the family and loved ones of the San Benito Police Officer whose life was tragically taken while protecting his fellow Texans. This senseless act is a solemn reminder of the selfless risks our law enforcement officers take every single day when they put on the badge. I thank the Texas Department of Public Safety, the San Benito Police Department, and all law enforcement involved in the swift apprehension and arrest of the criminals so justice can be served. Please join Cecilia and me in praying for this brave hero’s family and the entire San Benito community during this heartbreaking time.”

The investigation is ongoing. We’ll bring more updates as they become available.

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