Hidalgo County Sheriff’s deputies have arrested six men in connection with an attempted murder and car chase that began in Lopezville and ended in Edinburg a week and a half ago.
Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra said the incident was due to a human smuggling ring whose members turned on each other after a failed smuggling attempt approximately two weeks earlier.
“They were involved in trying to rip off monetary proceeds from a gang of criminal enterprise, which in this case, was human smuggling,” the sheriff said last week.
Police records show that one of the men, identified as David Davila, said another member of the group known as Mario demanded money from the failed smuggling attempt.
Investigators later identified Mario as Jose Mario Cardenas-Benitez. ““We believe that he is the leader of the organized smuggling criminal enterprise,” Guerra said last Thursday.
Davila, who had refused to pay, had intended to meet with Cardenas-Benitez when things came to a head and the shooting began.
He, along with another man — Jesus Guadalupe Mares — sat in a pickup truck off Minnesota Road in Lopezville on Friday, May 31, when Cardenas-Bentiez approached and allegedly began to shoot, records show.
Mares, sustained non-life threatening injuries after bullets struck him in the right arm and the left side of his face.
The men fled the scene and were chased by two vehicles until Davila crashed near Canton Road and Raul Longoria in Edinburg.
Five men were arrested the day after the shooting, including: Jose Anaya, 22; Jesus Martinez, 28; Victor Alejandro Ramirez, 21; Jesus Javier Solis, 37; and Yamil Garza Villarreal, 32.
But, Sheriff Guerra said investigators were still piecing together what happened that day and that more arrests were expected.
A man and a woman seen in surveillance footage being forced into one of the cars used in the chase — and who investigators initially thought had been kidnapped — have instead been identified as human trafficking victims, the sheriff said.
“Those victims were not actually kidnapped, they were actually undocumented aliens that were paying the smuggling organizations to smuggle them,” Guerra said. He added that the smugglers had been transporting people from the Rio Grande Valley to the Houston area.
The unnamed Central American woman was in a vehicle with Cardenas-Benitez in the Mission area when DPS attempted to conduct a traffic stop last Wednesday. “He (Cardenas-Benitez) got into a pursuit with DPS,” Guerra said.
Later, during an attempt to flee on foot, the sheriff said Cardenas-Benitez assaulted an officer.
The six men face charges of attempted murder and engaging in organized criminal activity. “Engaging would enhance it one degree higher, so it would be (a) first degree felony,” Guerra said.
The sheriff also stressed there was nothing arbitrary about the shooting. “It was not a random shooting,” he said.
“These individuals are engaged in criminal activity and this is a case of criminals on criminals.”
Though six arrests have now been made in the case, Guerra said the investigation remains ongoing and that more arrests are expected.
He thanked state and federal law enforcement agencies for their assistance in the investigation. Such interagency collaboration has reduced the prevalence of such criminal activity, the sheriff said. “Ourselves, along with all our state and federal partners, are doing a good job of identifying and arresting these individuals,” he said.
“These types of crime occurred more frequently than we’re seeing today.”