EDINBURG — Investigators with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office believe a 24-year-old man, — who was originally suspected of burglary of a habitation and was shot dead Saturday by the homeowner who made the claim — did not pose a threat and was instead the victim of a murder, Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra said during a news conference Sunday.
Guerra said Eduardo Mendoza and 50-year-old Gerardo Gonzalez arrived at a residence on the 1300 block of 25th Street in Weslaco early Saturday morning to purchase marijuana. An argument, however, ensued between the two men and Michael Luna, who is the boyfriend of homeowner Emma Linda Gracia, 41.
Citing voluntary statements from the suspected shooter and Gonzalez, the sheriff said Gracia claimed to have feared for her and her boyfriend’s safety when she grabbed a .22 caliber rifle and opened fire.
Mendoza was shot once in the abdomen and transported to a local hospital, where he later died after undergoing surgery, the sheriff said.
After further investigation and interviews with neighbors who witnessed the events, investigators pieced together a different story than what Gracia initially claimed.
“Mendoza never presented a clear threat of serious bodily injury to either party, nor did he possess any weapons when he was shot,” Guerra said at the news conference, held inside the Hidalgo County Jail in Edinburg immediately after Gracia was arraigned on a first-degree murder charge.
The sheriff went on to say there were no signs of a burglary, and that Mendoza had stood in the middle of the street with his hands raised.
Gracia, who Guerra said has a history of shooting at people at her residence, is currently being held on a $1 million bond set by Justice of the Peace Jerry Muñoz.
“This is something she’s done before in the past,” Guerra said, citing neighbors’ statements.
Weslaco police and the Texas Department of Public Safety assisted the sheriff’s office in the case, specifically by conducting a traffic stop on a vehicle in which Mendoza was a passenger. According to Guerra, it was Gracia who provided the names and vehicle description to the sheriff’s office in a 9-1-1 call she made following the shooting.
The sheriff also noted that while a subsequent search of the residence did not turn up any drugs, the argument may have stemmed from accusations by Luna that Mendoza had stolen either drugs or property from them in the past.
While Luna is not facing any charges, Gonzalez is being charged with criminal trespass, a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and as much as a $2,000 fine.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Gracia faces up to 99 years in prison and as much as a $10,000 fine.
Anyone with any information in the case is encouraged to call the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office at (956) 383-8114, or anonymously via the P3 TIPS app or the Hidalgo County Crime Stoppers Hotline at (956) 668-8477.
Monitor staff writer Emily D’Gyves contributed to this report.