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U.S. Citizens Shoot ICE Agent In Rio Grande Valley

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It was Texas Justice vs. Federal Law Enforcement in the Rio Grande Valley last week after three U.S. citizens were arrested for shooting a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent they allegedly mistook for a suspicious vehicle casing their rural neighborhood at 3:30 in the morning Tuesday.

Pedro Alvarado, 41, and his 18-year-old son Arnoldo Alvarado were charged last Thursday with assault of a federal officer and knowingly using and carrying a firearm during a violent crime. A second, unnamed, 16 year-old son was charged with attempted capital murder in state juvenile court and was ordered detained pending another hearing later this month after the two sons shot and wounded ICE Special Agent Kelton Harrison. The charges came after the junior Alvarados shot and wounded Harrison while their father drove them in pursuit of the agent who was in an unmarked car near their home in Hargill, 25 miles northeast of McAllen. Harrison required surgery but is expected to fully recover.

There are three interesting parts of this case to me. 1. I didn’t know ICE was involved in drug enforcement to this degree. The court filings say that Harrison was conducting surveillance on an anticipated drug deal at a property near Hargill. 2. What would you do if you lived out in the boonies in an area known for drug trafficking and you saw a suspicious, unmarked car sitting in front of your neighbor’s house at 3:30 in the morning with the lights off? Would you go up to it and knock on the window and ask what they were up to? Me thinks not. I personally wouldn’t go shooting at the car, either. But then again, I’m not the sort of person who lives in the boonies, so I don’t own a gun. 3. Arnoldo Alvarado waived his Miranda Rights and gave a full confession to the police, an act that doesn’t give me the impression the family is hiding anything. According to court testimony, what ensued is out of a Robert Rodriguez film.

The senior Alvarado told his sons to get their guns. The two sons left the house with a 9mm handgun and a .22 caliber rifle. While their father drove with his lights out, the sons shot at Special Agent Harrison who was sitting in an unmarked silver vehicle with his lights out, as well.

Arnoldo ALVARADO stated the minor fired his .22 caliber rifle approximately six (6) times towards the silver vehicle. Arnoldo ALVARADO stated that he then fired two (2) rounds utilizing a 9mm handgun into the air, and fired numerous rounds at the silver vehicle.

That Arnoldo fired shots in the air would also indicate that the Alvarados were trying to scare the driver away. Harrison began driving away and Pedro Alvarado continued in pursuit while his sons continued shooting at the vehicle. Harrison eventually lost control of his vehicle at the intersection of FM 493 and FM 186. Home Security Investigations special agents arrived at the scene and discovered that Special Agent Harrison had been shot. He was transported to a local hospital.

The Alvarados also gave permission for a consent search, further indicating they had nothing to hide from the police. To complicate matters, two undocumented aliens from El Salvador were found there. Those men are being considered material witnesses because they were in the home before and after the Alvarados shot Special Agent Harrison.

The two Alvarado men could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted and the minor Alvarado is being charged with a state crime because the federal law is not set up to prosecute juveniles, but Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño wants the youth certified as an adult “because he has committed an adult crime.”

If, in fact, the Alvarados were doing what they say they were doing—protecting their neighborhood from what they likely thought was a criminal element—this would be a gross misuse of the justice system.

Cindy Casares is a columnist for the Texas Observer. She is also the founding Editor of Guanabee Media, an English-language, pop culture blog network about Latinos established in 2007. She has a Master's in Mass Communications from Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter. Prior to her career in journalism, she spent ten years in New York City as an advertising copywriter. During her undergraduate career at the University of Texas she served under Governor Ann Richards as a Senate Messenger during the 72nd Texas Legislature.