Five in custody for attempted murder

Five men are facing attempted murder charges in connection with a shooting and car chase that happened in rural San Juan last Friday.

According to a statement released by the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday, two men were sitting inside a truck near the corner of Maya Drive and Minnesota Road in the Lopezville area when they were approached by a third man who began shooting at them.

The passenger of the truck, identified as Jesus Guadalupe Mares, was shot in the right arm and the left side of his face. The injuries were non-life threatening and he has since been released from the hospital.

Mares and the driver attempted to flee from the scene in the pickup truck, but were pursued by two vehicles — a grey and a red sedan.

The chase continued until the truck crashed near Canton Road and Raul Longoria Road in Edinburg, the statement reads.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested five men in connection with the shooting the following day, June 1 — all on attempt to commit murder charges. Arrested were Jose Anaya, 22; Jesus Martinez, 28; Victor Alejandro Ramirez, 21; Jesus Javier Solis, 37; and Yamil Garza Villarreal, 32. Ramirez was also charged with not having a driver’s license.

They each remain in custody pending $500,000 bonds, jail records show.

According to Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra, the shooting was part of a larger criminal enterprise. “All this stems from a human smuggling case and they were — they’re all involved in human smuggling,” Guerra said Wednesday.

“They were trying to rip off some of the money from the proceeds from each other.”

On Wednesday, officials tacked on additional engaging in organized criminal activity charges to all five men, which increases the severity of the attempted murder charges, Guerra said.

“Engaging would enhance it one degree higher, so it would be (a) first degree felony,” he said.

The sheriff added that investigators have identified a sixth man connected to the case whom they expect to arraign Thursday. The unnamed man is currently in custody with another law enforcement agency, Guerra said.

According to law enforcement records, two of the five men in custody so far have confessed to being a part of the shooting and chase.

In a statement to investigators, Anaya allegedly implicated himself in the shooting and chase. Anaya was also identified as a participant by one of the other four men.

Those records also show that Anaya was a passenger in a gray Ford Fusion owned by Martinez. Authorities later recovered Martinez’s phone at the Edinburg crash scene. On it, they discovered information regarding the victim, Mares.

Surveillance footage helped investigators identify another of the suspects.

“(T)he red Honda Accord was located by video surveillance placing the suspect vehicle following directly a second suspect vehicle behind the victim’s vehicle,” read law enforcement records about a car registered to Solis.

The two remaining men — Ramirez and Villarreal — were identified as persons of interest during the investigation before also being charged with attempted murder.

Sheriff Guerra said the case remains under investigation, and indeed, police records indicate there’s more to the story.

Investigators believe a man and a woman were allegedly kidnapped “and taken from the crash site to an unknown location.”

But the sheriff said as of yet, they have not been able to interview the pair. “Yes, we still believe it’s kidnapping, but we don’t have the victims,” Guerra said.

“If we’re able to … prove that they were kidnapped, then we’ll charge kidnapping,” he said.

Guerra thanked interagency partners for their assistance in the investigation, including Homeland Security Investigations, McAllen police and Edinburg police.

The sheriff also stressed there was nothing arbitrary about Friday’s incident. “It was not a random shooting,” he said.

“These individuals are engaged in criminal activity and this is a case of criminals on criminals.”