Agent arraigned: Bond set at $800,000 for suspected shooter in domestic ‘tragedy’

Ricardo Cepeda Jr. seen during arraignment proceedings Monday for attempted murder and endangering a child charges. The off-duty Border Patrol agent is accused of shooting his girlfriend in Edinburg early Sunday morning. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

EDINBURG — When a police officer arrived to a Zoe Avenue address here at 3 a.m. Sunday in reference to a shooting, he discovered a bullet-riddled SUV with a woman inside suffering from gunshot wounds to her back and lower torso.

The woman, identified by police as 34-year-old Edinburg resident Brenda Hernandez, spoke to the officer and accused her boyfriend of shooting her and driving off, possibly taking their 1-year-old daughter with him.

While the officer provided aid to Hernandez as they waited for an ambulance to arrive, her boyfriend — who police identified Monday as 33-year-old Ricardo Cepeda Jr., an off-duty Border Patrol agent — called her cell phone.

“It’s over,” Cepeda is alleged to have said before ending the call when the officer asked for his location, according to a probable cause affidavit.

He was arrested later Sunday morning in a rural field in Progreso with the assistance of Weslaco police and was arraigned Monday afternoon on a criminal attempted murder charge, a second degree felony, and two counts of abandoning or endangering a child, a third-degree felony and state jail felony. The more serious charge carries a potential 20-year prison sentence.

Cepeda is currently being held in county jail on an $800,000 bond, which was set by Edinburg Municipal Court Judge Terry Palacios for all three charges.

Cepeda, who was assigned to the Weslaco station, has been employed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for 11 years and “is currently in a non-duty status,” according to an agency statement. He will be required not to have or carry any type of weapon if he posts bond, per the judge’s orders.

Neither CBP or Edinburg police answered inquiries from The Monitor about whether the .40-caliber weapon Cepeda allegedly used to shoot Hernandez was his CBP-issued service weapon. Cepeda had two handguns in his possession at the time of his arrest, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Hernandez was in stable condition Monday, according to Lt. Oscar Treviño, spokesman for the Edinburg Police Department, who referred to the shooting as a “tragic” domestic violence incident that was “isolated” and “should in no way reflect negatively against our U.S. Border Patrol agents.”

Prior to the shooting, Cepeda, who had allegedly been drinking, began to argue with Hernandez at her residence and became aggressive, according to the affidavit. Hernandez left in her car but decided to return to the home to take their 1 year-old daughter with her after Cepeda sent her a photo of the little girl laying in a roadway, the document stated.

Cepeda was outside when she arrived, and as she drove up, Cepeda banged on her car door, all the while holding both their daughter and a handgun, the affidavit indicated. He fired at the car as Hernandez attempted to drive off, striking her at least twice, police said.

Treviño, the police spokesman, said the argument stemmed from Hernandez wanting to end the relationship.

By the time police arrived to the scene, Cepeda was gone. Police located the 1-year-old girl inside the home unharmed, and neighbors told The Monitor police broke down the home’s door in order to enter and recover the child.

If Cepeda posts bond, he will be prohibited from going within 200 yards of Hernandez and the girl, 200 yards of the Zoe Street residence and a Durmiendo Drive residence, and 200 yards from Edinburg North High School and an Edinburg daycare. Sources told The Monitor Sunday that Hernandez worked as a high school teacher in the Edinburg school district.

No attorney was present for Cepeda’s arraignment, and he told the judge that his attorneys, whose names he did not disclose, were unable to make the court proceeding.

Cepeda has had a previous run-in with law enforcement, having been arrested on a driving while intoxicated charge in January 2016 by McAllen police. Hidalgo County Court-at-Law No. 4 Judge Fred Garza dismissed Cepeda’s class B misdemeanor charge in March 2017 at the request of the district attorney’s office, according to district court records. The motion to dismiss notes the reason for dismissal as “alternate resolution, and completed alcohol classes.”

Sunday’s shooting remains under investigation.

CBP said in a statement that it “does not tolerate actions by any employee that would tarnish the reputation of our agency” and “is fully cooperating with the Edinburg Police Department investigation.”

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