Starr County agencies to prosecute celebratory gunfire

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Starr County will be ramping up prosecutions of celebratory gunfire with the use of recordings.

The 229th District Attorney’s Office announced last week that it and other law enforcement agencies have agreed to use “any available electronic recording device or surveillance systems at their disposal to further the arrest and prosecution of any person engaged in illegal celebratory gunfire.”

The other agencies include the Starr County Sheriff’s Office, Rio Grande City Police Department, Roma Police Department, U.S. Border Patrol, and the Starr County Attorney’s Office.

The notice, posted Dec. 28, warned that charges could range from ordinance violations to felony deadly conduct.

In March 2017, the Rio Grande City council approved an ordinance that regulated the discharge of firearms as a way to curb celebratory gunfire.

Per the ordinance, residents who discharged firearms into the air would receive a fine not to exceed $500 per casing on residents who discharge their firearms into the air.

In the notice, law enforcement also encourages those who may have captured evidence of celebratory gunfire to submit it to their agencies.

Omar Escobar, the 229th district attorney, said law enforcement is accustomed to getting calls from residents reporting neighbors firing into the air.

“You can imagine how long it’s going to take for a sheriff’s deputy, or Rio PD, or whoever it might be to actually find the location,” Escobar said. “What are the odds of the person still discharging by the time officers get there.”

Getting an actual recording of the gunfire would increase their chances of arresting and prosecuting someone.

“The real hope is that if neighbors or people think that they’re being recorded, they’re much less likely to do it,” Escobar added. “We’re hoping it will have a deterrent effect.”

For information on how to submit those recordings, people can contact the Starr County Sheriff’s Office at (956) 487-5571, the Roma Police Department at (956) 849-2231, or the Rio Grande City Police Department at (956) 487-8892.