Victim, Alleged Assailant Testify in Attempted Murder of Border Patrol Agent Trial

Fernando Puga
Photo: Dona County Sheriff's Department

Border Patrol Agent Lorenzo Hernandez and his alleged assailant, Leonardo Puga, both testified on Tuesday in the trial over attempted murder charges in a New Mexico court.

Hernandez testified that Puga and his now-convicted partner, Sergio Ivan Venegas-Quiñonez, forced him to drive to a remote location where he expected they were going to kill him. the Las Cruces Sun News reported. The Border Patrol agent, who was not on duty or in uniform at the time of the attack, testified that the duo approached him at a roadside tamale stand being operated by his mother. Hernandez said he went there to help and protect his mother while she ran the stand.

The two men told Hernandez that their car had broken down and they needed a ride to pick it up. The Border Patrol agent said that as soon as they began driving that Puga, who was sitting in the back seat, produced a machete and pressed it into his side. He continued, saying that Venegas-Quiñonez then pointed a gun at him and forced him to a remote location in New Mexico near Las Cruces.

He said that while they were driving that the man in the front seat told him this was a kidnapping and that they had done “another job for the cartel” earlier in the day. He said the man in the back seat (Puga) kept saying, “Let’s do it now.”

“They told me to turn the lights off and drive a few hundred yards,” Hernandez testified.  “At that point, I knew I was going to have to do something or I was going to die.”

He told the jury he attacked Venegas-Quiñonez as they got out of the car and attempted to wrestle the gun away from his assailant. He said Venegas-Quiñonez yelled to Puga, “He took the gun away from me! Hit him! Hit him!”

At that point, Puga began striking Hernandez with a machete, the Border Patrol agent explained. ”

“I started blocking the blade with my hands,” he stated. “The thinner one kept striking me with the machete.”

During opening arguments on Monday, Third District Attorney’s Office prosecutor Daniel Sewell told jurors, “[Puga] hacked him on his fingers, on his wrist, on his arms, on his legs, on his belly, on his side, on his back, and on his head,” Sewell said. “He hacked him a great deal and almost hacked him to death.”

The agent’s testimony continued as he described the fight with Puga. He said, “The thinner one kept striking me with the machete,” as the agent attempted to protect his head.

During his testimony, defendant Puga said he never touched the machete. During questioning by his own attorney, Todd Holmes, the defense attorney asked, “When you got into Mr. Hernandez’s vehicle, were you armed with any weapon?”

“I was not,” Puga responded. His attorney then asked if he ever “touched, held, or used” a machete on the day of the attack. Puga replied, “No.”

When District Attorney Sewell asked Puga where the machete was during the drive, Puga responded with a vague, “not in my possession.”

He asked Puga if he previously told the investigator that he believed Venegas-Quiñonez had hit Hernandez with a machete. Again, the suspect, testifying on his own behalf, gave a vague answer, saying, “I don’t recall much of me bringing up the machete issue. I might have said I did have a suspicion Mr. Quiñonez did use the machete against Mr. Hernandez.”

“I didn’t see him hit Mr. Hernandez with the machete,” he continued, “but I’m thinking he did.”

Sewell said Puga told the investigators he had been cut on the thumb by the machete. Puga responded that he lied about that statement.

“I lied about being cut with the machete, in case Mr. Quiñonez or the police had framed me with my DNA on the machete,” the defendant said. “I only lied about that issue because I was worried about being framed.”

Initially, Puga completely left out any reference to the machete in his statement to police. When questioned by the district attorney as to why he left that out of his statement, Puga thought for a while and then responded, “I don’t recall having my hands on the machete; that’s why I left it out. I left it out because I — didn’t use the machete. I did remember the machete was at the scene.”

Puga testified that he eventually fled the scene and crossed a river where he got lost in the desert until the next morning.

The prosecutor entered the machete, which investigators found in a pecan orchard several yards from the scene, the Las Cruces newspaper reported. They also presented the pellet gun that looks like a revolver that was used by Venegas-Quiñonez during the attack.

Breitbart News Border/Cartel Chronicles Director Brandon Darby first broke the news of the kidnapping and assault of Agent Hernandez in June 2017:

A leaked official document from the El Paso Sector Intelligence and Operations Center reveals that the injured off-duty Border Patrol agent who was discovered on the side of a roadway on June 9, 2017, is believed to have been kidnapped prior to sustaining severe injuries to his “head, chest, and hands.” Breitbart Texas exclusively obtained the document from a trusted source operating under the umbrella of Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The document does specifically identify that a Border Patrol agent was kidnapped and assaulted. The document also asserts that the FBI in El Paso, Texas, is leading the investigation. The document also warns law enforcement agents. It asserts, “Agents are advised to remain vigilant and maintain a heightened level of awareness.”

Officials later named Venegas-Quiñonez as one of the suspects in the case. Sources within CBP told Breitbart News that the suspects allegedly have connections with the Juarez Cartel, or its enforcement arm, “La Linea.”

On April 8, Venegas-Quiñonez pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Agent Hernandez, Breitbart News reported. The court dismissed aggravated battery and assault charges as part of a plea agreement. The court also dismissed a second criminal case against the man.

Under New Mexico sentencing guidelines, Venegas-Quiñonez faces up to nine years in state prison for the second-degree felony conviction of attempted murder. Prosecutor Sewell is recommending a sentence of seven years, the local newspaper reported. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 2, 2019.

The attorneys presented closing arguments on Wednesday. A verdict could come as early as Wednesday afternoon.

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for the Breitbart Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Facebook.

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