McALLEN, Texas — After a short deliberation, jurors convicted one of the men who shot and killed U.S. Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega during a family fishing trip in 2014. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
After almost two weeks of testimony, jurors at a state court in Brownsville, Texas, needed less than three hours to convict Gustavo Tijerina Sandoval of one count of capital murder for the death of Javier Vega Jr. and one count of attempted capital murder for the attempted murder of Javier Vega, the agent’s father. Although Tijerina was living in La Villa Texas, he was previously deported and had no legal presence in the country. A sentence has not yet been handed down in the case.
The Vega family was fishing in southeastern Willacy County, near Lyford when Tijerina and Ismael Hernandez Vallejo tried to rob the family and set off a fierce firefight where Vega died, Breitbart Texas reported at the time. The agent and his father are believed to have fought off the attack by firing their handguns and Vega is believed to have yelled at his family to “keep shooting” after being fatally wounded. Vega’s father was also injured.
According to the Brownsville Herald, during the trial, defense attorneys tried to claim that after a verbal confrontation between Tijerina and Vega, the agent fired first. The defense also claimed that a videotaped confession used against Tijerina was obtained illegally and his rights were violated.
After the shooting, authorities carried out an extensive manhunt throughout Willacy and the surrounding counties until they captured both Tijerina and Hernandez. Prosecutors are expected to go after Ismael Hernandez Vallejo in a separate trial, who was also in the country illegally at the time. Both Tijerina and Hernandez are originally from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, but were living in South Texas.
Initially, the U.S. Border Patrol did not classify Vega’s murder as a line of duty death. Two years later, after pressure from the National Border Patrol Council and various politicians, the agency changed its stance.
In 2016 in Edinburg, Texas, the U.S. Border Patrol and the NBPC honored Vega with a 21-gun salute and the presentation of the flag that they would have received in a line of duty death funeral.
Ildefonso Ortiz is an award-winning journalist with Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Brandon Darby and Stephen K. Bannon. You can follow him on Twitter and on Facebook. He can be contacted at Iortiz@breitbart.com.
(Disclosure: Breitbart Texas sponsored the Green Line podcast for the NBPC in an effort to provide a platform for agents to inform the public about the realities on the border and what Border Patrol agents face. Director Brandon Darby received an award from the Laredo chapter of the NBPC for his work in helping to defend and bring a voice to Border Patrol agents. Breitbart News assisted in covering funeral costs for the slain agent discussed in this article.)