A Laredo Border Patrol agent has been charged in the murder a woman and her one-year old son, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. Ronald Burgos-Aviles was arrested and charged with one count of capital murder of a person under ten years old and one count of capital murder of multiple persons on Monday.
Law enforcement officials said at a press conference on Tuesday that Burgos-Aviles had called 911 on Monday morning to report having discovered the bodies near a park along the border with Mexico, just south of the World Trade Bridge. Investigators quickly learned that Burgos-Aviles was romantically involved with the deceased woman, and within hours he became the primary suspect. He was arrested and taken to Webb County jail Monday night, where he is being held without bond.
Burgos-Aviles was a nine-year Border Patrol veteran, and was a supervisor in the agency’s Laredo Sector. “We are truly saddened by this horrific tragedy,” Jason Owens, chief of Border Patrol’s Laredo sector, said at the news conference. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to the victims’ family and friends. Customs and Border Protection is taking this allegation very seriously. The public’s trust is something that is held sacred by those of us charged with its protection. We are cooperating fully with the Laredo Police Department’s investigation to ensure that justice is served. While it is CBP policy to not comment on the details of an ongoing investigation, criminal action by our employees is something that simply will not be tolerated.”
Laredo Police chief Claudio Trevino identified the victims as 27-year-old Grizelda Hernandez and her one-year-old son, Dominick Alexander Hernandez. He said their bodies were found with “visible signs of violence,” but he declined to say their manner of death, citing the ongoing investigation.
It is unclear whether Burgos-Aviles has been placed on suspension by Border Patrol. Phone calls to the Laredo sector’s public affair’s office were not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.
“The actions of this individual, if true, are both inexcusable and reprehensible,” Owens said at the press conference. “No one is more sickened than we are at the thought of someone wearing this uniform committing such a heinous act. It is not representative of the hard work, dedication and self sacrifice inherent to the agents and officers of CBP. We stand with the community and will do everything in our power to make sure the individual responsible answers for this crime.”
Compared to other law enforcement agencies, CBP and Border Patrol agents are pretty frequently charged with crimes—a 2016 Texas Tribune analysis identified at least 140 CBP officials and Border Patrol Agents who were charged or convicted of corruption since 2004. But it’s rare that an agent is charged with murder.
Agent Joel Luna was arrested in 2016 and charged with murder in connection with the decapitation of a man who had threatened to snitch on Luna and his brother, who was a hitman for the Gulf Cartel. While Luna was eventually acquitted of the murder charge, he was convicted of engaging in organized criminal activity for helping ferry drugs and guns into Mexico for the cartel. His brother was convicted in the murder.
More recently, a Border Patrol agent in the Laredo sector was arrested and charged with rape. David Villarreal, 32, turned himself into Laredo police last week and faces charges of sexually assaulting a woman, tampering with physical evidence and official oppression. He was released from jail last Thursday after posting $125,00 bond.
And in Arizona, Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz is currently on trial for allegedly murdering 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodríguez of Mexico, who was killed when Swartz shot him through a border fence in Nogales. Swartz testified on Monday that the unarmed 16-year-old had been throwing rocks over the fence to help smugglers escape back to Mexico after dropping a load of marijuana. According to witness accounts and testimony, Swartz shot Elena Rodriguez three times through the fence, then walked up to the fence and fired an additional ten rounds, emptying his magazine. He then reloaded and fired three more times.