EDINBURG — Three people — including two family members — were formally charged Tuesday with helping former Hidalgo County District Clerk Omar Guerrero avoid a sexual assault arrest and flee to Mexico.
Wanted in an aggravated sexual assault of a minor case — again — Guerrero is believed to be hiding out in Monterrey after his escape less than 24 hours after he posted bail.
Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño said he would continue to pursue the aggravated sexual assault charges against Guerrero, whose family has made threats against the sheriff, saying that thugs from Mexico are “coming to take care of things.”
The manhunt for Guerrero resembles the last time he was on the run attempting to avoid a sexual assault charge — a case in which he was later acquitted in 2007.
But this time, authorities are calling two of Guerrero’s relatives and a family friend accomplices in his escape.
Charged with two counts of hindering the apprehension of a fugitive are Guerrero’s father, Jesus Garcia Guerrero; his sister, Laura Lopez Guerrero; and Mari Salinas Solis, a reserve Palmview police officer. Authorities are investigating a fourth person who may be charged in the near future in connection with the case.
Each person’s bond was set at $250,000 on the two counts, one felony and one misdemeanor.
HidalgoCountysheriff’s deputies arrested Guerrero May 3 on a felony possession of cocaine charge and a misdemeanor gun charge. He posted a $1.05 million bond May 7 and has not been seen since.
On May 8, sheriff’s deputies went to Guerrero’s home arrest him on a charge of aggravated sexual assault of a minor for the alleged rape of a 15-year-old.
But he was gone.
Less than 24 hours after his release on bond, Guerrero was riding a vehicle with his father, sister and acquaintance toward the Los Indios International Bridge near Harlingen, where they crossed into Mexico and then drove about 40 minutes towards Reynosa, Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe said.
“That right there tells me their intent, they weren’t going to Mexico for a doctor’s visit,” Treviño said. “If they had wanted to go to Reynosa, they could have used three or four other bridges. This was done to avoid detection.”
Guerrero is considered a fugitive since he fled in order to avoid prosecution, but he is not a bail jumper — in which his bail bond company would have to pay his bond — because his case hadn’t yet been called by a judge, the sheriff said.
Guerrero now has a federal arrest warrant charging him with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, bringing the U.S. Marshals Service into the manhunt, Treviño said.
Solis had been with Palmview police as a reserve officer for the past three months and before that she had been a full-time officer there for a year and a half, Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education records show. She didn’t have any disciplinary actions against her peace officer’s license as of Tuesday.
But Palmview Police Christopher Barrera confirmed that she Solis been removed from her post as a reserve officer. She is believed to be a family acquaintance who was working with Jesus Guerrero towards opening a private security company, Treviño said.
The investigation into Guerrero revealed information that has created concerns for the safety of the 15-year-old who said she was raped, Treviño said.
The sheriff said Guerrero is believed to have direct links to drug cartel members in Mexico and that he has received threats from the Guerrero family about the investigation. The sheriff said he learned a law enforcement official was asked to tell him that people from Mexico “are coming to take care of things.”
The law enforcement official provided a sworn affidavit to authorities regarding the case and the threats made.
At a Tuesday afternoon news conference, the sheriff said he would remain steadfast in pursuing charges against Guerrero and was taking the necessary measures to ensure the girl’s safety.
“She didn’t ask to be raped,” Treviño said of the teenage girl. “She didn’t ask to be victimized.”
Ildefonso Ortiz covers courts, law enforcement and general assignments for The Monitor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (956) 683-4437 or on Twitter, @ildefonsoortiz.