LA JOYA, Texas–Citizens ran for cover as authorities and a presumed member of the Texas Syndicate prison gang got into a brutal firefight less than a mile from the border with Mexico.
Bursts of what sounded like automatic fire were heard on and off as police officers and sheriff’s deputies tried to arrest 29-year-old Joaquin Cibrian, a member of the fearsome prison gang who barricaded himself in a house in a densely populated area of this South Texas community. Authorities wanted Cibrian on suspicion of capital murder.
Three police helicopters circled overhead as more than 100 police officers from various agencies, sheriff’s deputies, and state troopers remained at the scene while tactical teams worked to apprehend the lone gunman.
On Tuesday night, Edinburg Police Chief Rolando Castaneda said a team of his officers had been trying to apprehend Cibrian for his alleged role in the murder of a 19-year-old man from Mexico who had been shot in the back head earlier this month.
According to Castaneda, his team received a call from La Joya Police about a burnt orange Jeep Compass like the one sought in the murder case. The vehicle appeared to have been pursued by other law enforcement agencies and ended up at a house on the south side of the border town.
“As the officers were getting out of the car, the suspect… opened up on our officers,” Castaneda said. “One of my officers was shot in the arm; the other officer was shot in both legs and possibly a third time. That officer is undergoing surgery… These officers are heroes.”
Other officers and deputies arrived in armored vehicles to rescue their teammates who had gotten pinned down near their patrol car by the constant gunfire.
“The suspect kept firing and we were able to relieve those officers from the positions they were pinned down,” said Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra as he described the hours-long ordeal.
A team of hostage negotiators arrived to try to talk the gunman down, apparently convincing him to surrender, Guerra said.
“However, as he opened the door, he immediately engaged our personnel that were waiting for him to make the arrest,” the sheriff said.
Authorities contacted the gang member a second time, where they once again convinced him to surrender with a similar outcome.
“At that point again, he engaged our officers with multiple shots,” Guerra said. “At that point, we deployed an armored vehicle to ram the door and fired tear gas. At that point, he came out firing multiple rounds; our officers returned fire… the threat has been taken care of; he’s dead at this time.”
The shootout hit close to home for Clemente Garcia, whose relatives were in the house next door when the shooting started, forcing his relatives to seek refuge and wait for police to rescue them.
“This is a continuation of the drug violence,” Garcia said. “Drugs come right through this area all the time, bringing the criminal element and this was just something that was a matter of time. I don’t wish him [the suspect] well.”