Abbott appoints Hidalgo County sheriff to Domestic Terrorism Task Force

Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra speaks during a news conference about SB 4 on Thursday May 11, 2017 at the McAllen Convention Center.

Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra has been selected as one of 18 members to join a new Domestic Terrorism Task Force, Gov. Greg Abbott’s office announced in a news release last Wednesday.

“I am honored to be a part of such an esteemed group of individuals with the common goal of working together to prevent and combat domestic terrorism,” Guerra said in a statement. “Extremism and hate crimes have no place in Texas, and together, we will work to keep this great state, and our respective communities, safe.”

Created in the wake of the shooting massacre at an El Paso area Walmart on Aug. 3, which claimed the lives of 22 people, the task force was formed by Abbott and will meet quarterly to expand efforts combating domestic terrorism across local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in Texas.

The first gathering, a roundtable discussion, is scheduled Friday, Aug. 30.

“The group of experts will analyze and provide advice on strategies to maximize law enforcement’s ability to protect against acts of domestic terrorism,” the news release read. “Additionally, the Governor today directed the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to take immediate action to combat any form of domestic terrorism in Texas.”

Those actions, according to the governor’s office, include conducting state intelligence, establishing a domestic terrorism section within the Texas Fusion Center to seek, assess and monitor domestic terrorism threats, establish domestic terrorism teams within DPS who will support the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, and increase the number of DPS special agents in the Texas Anti-Gang Centers who conduct investigations on gangs affiliated with neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups.

The task force’s formation comes at a time in which tensions have heightened in local communities, the Rio Grande Valley not being the exception. Locally, arrests have been made in Weslaco and Harlingen the week following the El Paso shooting for shooting threats made at Walmarts in those Valley communities.

Guerra is the only sheriff to be appointed to the task force, which includes Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen, the head of DPS and Texas Parks & Wildlife, as well as representatives from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the FBI and others.