Brownsville man whose mother died in police shootout avoids murder trial

A man accused of triggering a deadly chain of events that culminated in a shootout that left his mother dead pleaded no contest Monday morning to manslaughter, avoiding a murder trial.

Jesse Garcia, who was left paralyzed from the waist down during the fateful incident, was scheduled for trial on charges of murder, three counts of aggravated assault on a public servant and two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for threatening an off-duty Border Patrol agent and his estranged girlfriend with a handgun.

Defense attorney Fred Kowalski said he and Cameron County Assistant District Attorney Art Teniente worked all weekend to reach a plea deal in the case.

During a brief hearing before the scheduled jury trial, 357th state District Judge Juan A. Magallanes accepted Garcia’s no contest plea to manslaughter, three counts of aggravated assault on a public servant and one count of aggravated assault. The other count of aggravated assault will be dropped, per the plea deal, Kowalski said.

Each count carries a sentence of not less than two years but no more than 20 years in prison for each count, though Magallanes could order the sentences to be served concurrently.

Garcia admitted Monday to confronting the off-duty Border Patrol agent who he found with his estranged girlfriend on Jan. 26, 2016. During a struggle, Garcia shot the off-duty Border Patrol agent in his midsection and fled, triggering a massive law enforcement response.

The search for Garcia ended in a hail of bullets in front of his mother’s house that left the woman dead in the early morning hours of Jan. 27, 2016.

In civil litigation, Garcia and his two brothers allege that two Cameron County Sheriff Department deputies and a Brownsville Police Department officer shot and killed his mother. The murder indictment against Garcia didn’t charge him with firing the fatal shot, but instead with setting of a chain of deadly events that led to his mother’s death.

Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 29.