Edinburg police offer a lifeline to domestic abuse victims

EDINBURG — Within the span of a week, two women here were either stabbed or shot by their intimate partners, one ultimately dying as a result of her injuries. This unexplainable spike in domestic violence has prompted police to urge anyone in a domestic violence situation to seek help from law enforcement before it’s too late.

“Victims of domestic violence do not need to be putting up with this type of abuse,” Lt. Oscar Treviño, Edinburg police spokesman, told media Wednesday at a news conference held to address the topic.

“If anybody is trying to control you, control your movement, (if) anybody is verbally abusing you, emotionally abusing you, physically abusing you and sexually abusing you, you are a victim of domestic violence and you do need assistance, and that is what the police department is here for,” Treviño said. “All you need to do is ask for the help.”

The department’s push to get victims of domestic violence to come forward came just three days after its officers arrested off-duty Border Patrol agent Ricardo Cepeda Jr., 33, on an attempted murder charge. Cepeda is accused of shooting his on-again, off-again girlfriend who survived, despite being shot at close range by a .40-caliber handgun.

A week prior to the shooting, Isidro Mancilla Jr., 39, is accused of fatally stabbing his girlfriend, 27-year-old Samantha Marie Cantu of Edinburg. Mancilla was charged with murder.

Edinburg police respond to domestic disputes on a daily basis, ranging from verbal arguments to physical assaults.

In 2017, law enforcement agencies in Hidalgo County received a combined 5,817 domestic violence calls, according to data provided by Cecilia Mata-Moya of Women Together/Mujeres Unidas, a nonprofit that provides shelter and resources to victims of domestic violence.

“We need to understand that if it were easy, many people would leave,” Mata-Moya said during the news conference in regards to domestic violence situations.

And it’s for this reason Edinburg police frequently respond to the same residences, Treviño said, adding victims can be hesitant to file charges against their partners because someone is undocumented, the perpetrator is the family breadwinner or — as is most often the case — they fear retaliation that can end in serious bodily injury or death.

Those reasons should not stop someone from coming forward, police emphasized during the news conference.

“It’s hard to know what people are doing in the privacy of their own homes, and that’s where these incidents start,” Treviño said. “The next thing you know, it escalates and they’re out in the front yard and you have a shooting or stabbing or murder.”

And that was the case Sunday, when Cepeda — the off-duty Border Patrol agent — reportedly shot his girlfriend while she was in her car outside her house. Investigators believe Cepeda was holding the couple’s 1-year-old daughter at the time.

Patrolman Arielle Benedict, who has responded to numerous domestic violence calls, urged parents who find themselves in a domestic violence situation to come forward because their children are also victims.

“Just because it’s not physical with the children, just because (the children) are not there (and) they don’t see it, they can feel the tension in their family household,” she said. “The exposure of witnessing domestic violence in the household can have devastating effects.”

Edinburg police encourage anyone suffering from domestic violence to either call or visit the department in-person and speak to an investigator. People can do so anonymously and have the choice of speaking to a male or female officer.

If someone fears coming in to the police department, Edinburg police can also send a plainclothes officer to meet a person at their location of choice.

“There is a hand that is being extended,” the department spokesman said. “I urge you to take it.”

Edinburg police can be reached at (956) 289-7700. Anyone in an emergency situation should call 9-1-1.