Hidalgo County Sheriff's deputies clutched their shotguns Sunday evening, standing guard at an intersection north of Elsa where suspected kidnappers shot and wounded one of the deputies' comrade-in-arms.
The Sheriff's Office is not releasing the names of anyone involved out of concerns over retaliation, but sources have confirmed that Deputy Hugo Rodriguez was shot three times and is in stable condition at McAllen Medical Center.
Sheriff Lupe Trevino said his office received a call regarding a possible kidnapping about 5:21 p.m. Rodriguez, along with other deputies, were on their way to the scene near Val Verde and Farm-to-Market Road 2812 when they spotted a brown pickup that resembled the vehicle involved in the alleged kidnapping.
When they saw the pickup, which had three passengers as well as the driver inside, they pulled it over.
The sheriff said as deputies were interviewing the driver, one of the passengers got out and began shooting multiple rounds.
A bullet proof vest helped Rodriguez ward off two shots to the chest, Trevino said, adding that a third bullet punctured him in the lower right abdominal area. The deputies then opened fire and killed the shooter, the sheriff said.
"He's going to be just fine," Trevino said of Rodriguez. "The doctors are giving a real good prognosis."
He said the deputy is scheduled for surgery on Monday.
The driver of the vehicle also was shot and is in the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds, including one to the head.
"We're still not sure who shot who," Trevino said.
After the incident, search warrants were executed for a nearby mobile home and another home. Trevino said the third passenger in the car may have been the kidnapping victim. The fourth is cooperating with law enforcement.
The sheriff said they believe the incident was the result of a drug deal between two groups of people.
"We really don't know the whole story yet," he said. "We don't know who might be behind this scenario."
Trevino said drugs were recovered at the mobile home, but he couldn't say what kind or how much just before press time.
"Our main concern, of course, was the health and well-being of our deputy," he said.
"WE CANNOT BE EVERYWHERE"
Residents suggested the entire shootout might have been averted had the Sheriff's Office committed more attention and resources to the area in the past.
"I'm not very happy with the Sheriff's department whatsoever, at all," said Alan Roy, a 51-year-old truck driver. "This has been an ongoing situation for years, and it's only getting worse."
He and his family recounted a series of robberies, drug-related crimes and at least one body found along the side of the road that they said received little follow-up from investigators.
Roy said neighborhood youths have robbed his property and was frustrated he must only rely on the county to resolve the "simple injustice."
"Today is not that unusual," he said. "Why does something big have to happen for them to get here this quick?
"They go (crazy) over catching a little bit of marijuana but truly never take another look at all the robberies and other problems."
Trevino rejected that criticism
"Whether it's deputies, state troopers, police departments, we cannot be everywhere all the time," the sheriff said, but "in this particular area, we reduced violent crime by 43 percent.
"I really don't know what the people are concerned about. I hope (they are) directed in our direction so we can get more specifics."
Trevino said he will launch three investigations– one by a specialized team that deals with deputy-related shootings, a second by a homicide unit and the third by Internal Affairs, which will determine if any departmental rules were violated between the initial traffic stop and the fatal shooting.
Trevino said the three-pronged investigation is normal in an incident like this.
"That's just par for the course," he said.
And in the meantime, investigators will go door to door within one-quarter mile of the scene, hoping to find witnesses.
Trevino also has ordered a lockdown for the emergency room at McAllen Medical Center to prevent any sort of retaliation.
"This is by far not over," he said. "We are in the very early stages of the investigation."
Copyright 2011 - The Monitor, McAllen, Texas
McClatchy-Tribune News Service