BROWNSVILLE —When 38-year-old Robert Galvan finished his shift cutting hair at the Mr. Flawless barbershop on April 10 and headed over to a friend’s house for some after work beers, he would later ask for a ride that he will forever regret.
As the evening turned into the early morning hours of April 11, a Tuesday, Galvan would find himself in a jail cell at the Brownsville Police Department after being arrested for public intoxication after a fight with two men who gave him a ride to East 10th Street turned deadly.
Galvan didn’t know it at the time, but he had killed 54-year-old Horacio Eguia by slashing the man’s calf open with a pair of scissors he used to cut hair and seriously injured another man, 44-year-old Brian Oliver Scott, according to court records.
The following Friday morning, after spending two days in jail, Galvan appeared before a magistrate judge inside the Brownsville Police Department and was charged with murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The judge set his bail at $1 million. He has remained behind bars since that fateful night.
However, in November, the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges against Galvan, citing a need for additional time to wait on DNA testing of blood found on the murder weapon that won’t be available until spring of 2019. Galvan and his attorney, Nat C. Perez, had told District Judge Gloria Rincones that they were ready to go to trial and objected to waiting any longer because Galvan believed he was innocent and acted in self defense.
Rincones set a trial date for January, so the DA’s Office dismissed the charges to obtain the DNA testing. Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz has said that once the DNA evidence is obtained, the case will be re-presented to a grand jury for indictment.
Galvan wasn’t temporarily out of the hot seat, though. At the time of the killing, he was on probation for seriously injuring his girlfriend by slamming her face into a gearshift during a 2016 domestic dispute.
In fact, just 20 days before the fatal altercation with Eguia and Scott, Galvan had appeared before Rincones after the DA’s Office sought to revoke his probation because he tested positive for cocaine, he was late on probation and restitution fees, and he had twice been discharged from the Batterers Intervention Program.
During that March 21 hearing, Rincones gave Galvan one more chance.
But before he found himself in front of Rincones for a Dec. 10 hearing that spanned the course of two days about whether his probation would be revoked, Galvan’s night on April 10 started out with concern for a longtime friend.
THE PALACIO REAL APARTMENTS
While Galvan was at work that April 10, he noticed a post on Facebook from his longtime friend Lorenzo Sandoval about how the man, who was suffering from an incurable disease, was feeling sad.
After a co-worker dropped Galvan off at the Palacio Real Apartments at 1165 Wildrose Lane, he began to drink some beer with Sandoval and another man identified only as George — a friend of Sandoval’s.
Galvan had offered to cut Sandoval’s hair in hopes to cheer him up. Sandoval declined, but George took Galvan up on his offer and the two went outside where Galvan began cutting his hair.
That’s when Galvan first encountered Scott and Eguia, who gave him a hard time about cutting hair.
Galvan tried to shrug it off, but when Eguia began smoking marijuana outside and the wind blew it toward Galvan, the pair got into an argument.
Sandoval testified on Monday that he heard the argument, explaining that Galvan was telling Eguia that he was on probation and didn’t want to test positive because Eguia’s marijuana smoke was blowing in his direction. Sandoval said he had to tell Galvan to calm down because he was a guest.
“Horacio decided to turn it off, or whatever,” Sandoval said.
Sandoval believed the quarrel had ended and testified that Eguia later even complimented the haircut Galvan had given George.
As the night progressed, Galvan and Sandoval walked to a Stripes gas station and bought some more beer. By midnight, though, Sandoval was ready for bed. He offered to let Galvan stay the night, but Galvan declined.
Once the party was over, Sandoval testified that the tension between Galvan and Eguia had calmed enough that Galvan felt comfortable asking Eguia for a ride.
Eguia didn’t have a vehicle, but told Galvan he would ask his friend Scott if he could give the man a ride.
At this point in the court testimony and in police interviews, what happened next depends on whether Scott or Galvan is telling the truth. Both men have felony records, though Scott has spent significantly more time in state prison than Galvan.
According to Scott’s testimony, he told Galvan sure, only if Galvan gave him $10 for gas money and a pack of cigarettes. However, in his police statement, Scott told investigators he only asked Galvan for $10.
“I didn’t give Robert a ride out of the kindness of my heart. I didn’t have any gas,” Scott said.
Scott also claimed he had never seen Galvan before April 10, though Galvan testified that Scott had previously given him a ride to the Stripes to buy beer. Under questioning by Galvan’s attorney, Perez, Scott said, “I was probably so drunk that I don’t remember that.”
One mystery Scott couldn’t explain is why Eguia joined him on the ride.
While the trio was in the vehicle heading to a shack in downtown Brownsville on East 10th Street Scott claims Eguia and Galvan began to quarrel loudly in Spanish, which Galvan disputes. Scott also claims Galvan was fumbling around in the back seat with his barber kit as they approached the destination.
The narrative surrounding what happened when Scott pulled up to the shack on the 200 block of East 10th Street is one man’s word against another’s.
There are no witnesses who saw the altercation outside of Scott, Galvan and Eguia, who is dead. There are no video recordings. There is only Scott’s word versus Galvan’s and interpretations of which story best matches the physical evidence at the scene, which includes the scissors and blood stains.
Scott told police that Eguia and Galvan exited the vehicle, but couldn’t tell investigators why Eguia exited. He believed tensions between Eguia and Galvan had boiled over from earlier and that Galvan had pulled out the scissors used in the stabbing even before exiting the vehicle. Scott also told police that Galvan gave him $10 before getting out of the vehicle, though Galvan has said he gave Scott $5.
Scott, who told police he was angry because he wanted to go home, yelled profanities at Galvan and shouted at Eguia to get back in the car.
“I was just angry at the situation they had put me in,” Scott said.
In a police interview, Scott told authorities that he turned to open the driver’s door and felt a burning sensation on his back, but never saw who stabbed him. Scott said Galvan and Eguia ran off into a field before Eguia came hobbling back with a fatal leg wound to the back of his calf.
Both men suffered wounds to their backsides.
The two got into the vehicle and despite Eguia’s dying pleas to go to the hospital, Scott drove back to the Palacio Real Apartments, where he collapsed on the floor of the apartment he shared with his partner, Israel Bravo.
Scott never called 911. He never stopped at a location to ask anyone else to call 911 or to ask for help.
“Is that consistent with being a victim or a suspect,” Perez, Galvan’s attorney, asked during the hearing.
Scott testified that he was unfamiliar with Brownsville and didn’t know where the hospital or the phone was. He said he panicked and was in shock.
Along the way back to the apartment, Eguia’s breathing became more and more shallow. When they made it back, the door to the vehicle Eguia was found in was closed.
Scott’s partner, Bravo, called the Brownsville Police Department from the apartment they shared.
Investigators found Eguia’s body in the parking lot. He had one leg outside of the now-opened car passenger door.
While investigators now had a murder scene at the Palacio Real Apartments, other Brownsville police officers responding to a disturbance call were investigating a robbery.
Brownsville police had detained Galvan, who told them he had been jumped and robbed by two men — Eguia and Scott.
As police eventually connected both crime scenes, authorities arrested and charged Galvan with public intoxication and booked him into jail at the Brownsville Police Department — roughly a mile away from where the attack occurred.
At 5:22 p.m. on April 11, Detective Gilbert Uviedo began a recorded interview with Galvan that lasted 2.5 hours. Uviedo never told Galvan Eguia was dead. Uviedo never told Galvan he was being investigated for murder. Instead, he told Galvan he had questions about his public intoxication arrest.
During that interview, Uviedo lied to Galvan repeatedly, telling him that witnesses, including both victims, said he was the aggressor in the fight, that he stabbed himself in the hand and that they had made stops to buy drugs.
During testimony, Uviedo said police are allowed to lie in criminal investigations and that Uviedo believed that if he told Galvan Eguia died, Galvan’s story might change.
But despite the lies and despite suggestions that Galvan had problems with gay people — Scott is gay — Galvan never changed his story, except to admit that he had been drinking more than he originally told investigators.
Galvan maintains that Scott and Eguia attempted to mug him of the $130 he had in his wallet, and that Eguia stabbed him in the hand with the scissors as he tried to fend of the attack. Galvan said as he was running away from the men — who both exited the vehicle and immediately attacked him — his barber kit fell, broke and spilled all over the street.
“They get out of the car and they start beating me up outside the car,” Galvan said.
According to Galvan, he had been punched, fell to the ground and was being kicked when he pulled the scissors out of his hand and began slashing wildly to defend himself. He told Uviedo that he saw Eguia’s wound, but maintained he didn’t see himself stab Scott, though he later said he felt it.
“They tried to jump me, then tried to beat me up. I’m just better at it,” Galvan told Uviedo, who continued to challenge his story.
Scott has denied trying to rob Galvan.
“No, I never demanded anything from him,” Scott told Uviedo during an interview at his apartment. “He can probably say that because (Eguia) is unfortunately dead.”
Uviedo told Scott up front that he was interviewing him as part of a murder investigation and in a segment of that interview presented in court, Uviedo told no lies to Scott.
Galvan’s moment of truth came Tuesday afternoon.
At the end of the motion to revoke his probation, Judge Rincones found Galvan had acted in self defense.
“I do not find the state has proven that Mr. Galvan caused the death of Mr. Eguia or that he assaulted causing serious bodily injury to Mr. Scott,” Rincones said.
But she reminded Galvan that on March 21, she had given him an opportunity.
“You are no stranger to problems. You know what you are not supposed to be doing,” Rincones said. “You were drinking. You admit to drinking. You were around people you shouldn’t be around.”
Rincones told Galvan she believed Scott and Eguia had bad intentions, but that he should have never gotten in the car with the men.
“You could have avoided that situation,” Rincones said.
She ruled that Galvan’s arrest for public intoxication did violate his probation.
Rincones then sentenced him to four years in state prison with credit for the nine months he’s already been incarcerated.
“For that time you are not in the free world, think really hard about what you want for your son,” Rincones said.
She told him that he must learn not to put himself in bad situations.
“I hope you are very wise for decisions you make when you are free,” Rincones said.