Suspect in 1998 STC fatal shooting extradited to McAllen

McALLEN — A Mexican national who was on the run for two decades after allegedly shooting a campus security guard during a botched robbery attempt was extradited here Wednesday night to face a capital murder charge.

Roberto Ivanovich Ojeda Hernandez, who was 19 years old on the evening of Jan. 13, 1998, arrived Wednesday evening and will be held at the Hidalgo County sheriff’s jail on a $2 million bond while his capital murder case makes it way through the criminal court system.

That January evening, Ojeda, along with another man, is accused of storming into a South Texas College classroom where students were registering for classes and opened fired, according to Monitor archives. Security guard Carlos Hernandez, 32, was fatally shot and three students were injured.

Mexico’s Federal Ministerial Police arrested Ojeda, now 39, in July 2018 in Reynosa, according to Mexican news magazine Proceso, and the extradition process began.

“The significance of the arrest now is that it allows us to move the case and therefore the investigation forward,” McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez said at a Thursday morning news conference. “The investigation was by no means complete back in 1998.”

Now that he is in custody in the U.S., McAllen police will focus on determining the identity of the second suspect and any others involved in the crime, the chief said.

Police identified Ojeda as a suspect after Mexican police traced a Mexican-registered vehicle believed to be the getaway car to him, according to Monitor archives. Police also believe he “had experience at the campus and perhaps maybe he had been involved in the (school’s) security service,” Rodriguez said.

McAllen police issued a warrant for his arrest in February 1999, and a grand jury indicted him on a capital murder charge in March of that year.

Ojeda likely spent his 20 years on the run in his native Reynosa, but neither the chief or Stephen Kam, the FBI’s assistant special agent-in-charge at its McAllen office, elaborated as to how he was located and apprehended.

STC did not have its own police force at the time of the shooting.

The school started its police department in 2012, said its chief, Paul Varville, who was present at Thursday’s news conference. Today, the department has 56 security guards and 23 police officers.

“Since Columbine (in April 1999) and those situations, colleges have been much more aware to this,” Varville said of how security has changed at college campuses over the past two decades.

“We’ve all grown in that time, including South Texas College, and we too now with this particular arrest can begin to move the investigation,” said Rodriguez.