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Authorities say lawman justified in Easter Sunday fatal shooting

October 12, 2018

A Cameron County grand jury has agreed with the Texas Rangers that an Easter officer-involved shooting that left a 23-year-old Cameron Park man dead in front of his family’s apartment was justified.

Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz said the Texas Rangers submitted the findings to the DA’s Office, which presented those findings to a grand jury in mid-September.

No criminal charges were ever brought against the Cameron County Sheriff’s Department deputy, Saenz said.

Sheriff Omar Lucio identified the deputy on Wednesday who fired the fatal shot as Sonny Pedraza, who has been with the sheriff’s department for three years.

Pedraza responded to the 2600 block of Avenida Florencia on Easter for a 911 call from Luis Yiar Alvarez’s mother, Esmeralda Vega, who told authorities that her son assaulted his girlfriend.

In a 911 call released by the sheriff’s department, Alvarez takes the phone from his mother and tells authorities not to try to arrest him because he will come after them with a gun or a knife.

(AUDIO: LISTEN TO THE 911 CALL)

“ Bueno. I have a gun, a knife (unintelligible). Don’t try to arrest me because I’ll come after you with the gun or the knife so I think it’s best you kill me,” Alvarez calmly tells the 911 dispatcher in Spanish. “Shoot from afar because I’m going to do something.”

When Vega got the phone back, she told the operator that Alvarez did not have a gun.

When the deputies arrived Alvarez confronted them in the parking lot of the apartment complex and walked toward the deputies with a knife in his hand, disobeying commands to drop the weapon, Lucio said on the day after the shooting.

The officers can be heard on the 911 recording telling Alvarez to back up. His mother can be heard on the call pleading with her son to obey the deputies.

The day following the shooting, Vega said her son did have a knife, but that he didn’t intend to assault anyone.

“ That’s when he went outside with the knife, but both hands were up,” the grieving Vega said.

On Wednesday, Lucio said that he went to the scene of the shooting on Easter and said the Texas Rangers quickly showed up to take over the investigation.

“ We just left everything the way it was,” Lucio said of the scene. “The Rangers arrived quickly and they took over completely. That’s what we normally do when one of our officers are involved in something, which is very serious. We let another agency handle it. The Rangers came right away.”

The deputy who fired the fatal shot, Pedraza, previously worked for the Brownsville Police Department.

In 2013, the Brownsville PD accused Pedraza of official oppression relating to an alleged wrongful public intoxication arrest from the previous year. He was also charged with tampering with government records.

However, in Aug. 2013, visiting judge David Wellington Chew made a directive judgment after the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office rested its case that Pedraza was not guilty.

On the steps of the Cameron County Courthouse after the ruling, Pedraza’s attorney said the charges were trumped up and that authorities targeted Pedraza because he blew the whistle on another more senior officer’s alleged wrongdoing.

mreagan@brownsvilleherald.com

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