A man from Mexico who has previously been arrested and deported multiple times for entering the U.S. illegally is now facing the death penalty after being found guilty in the 2014 murder of a Border Patrol agent in Texas.
Gustavo Tijerina-Sandoval, of La Villa, showed no emotion in court Wednesday as he was told by a judge that a jury found him guilty in the killing of Javier Vega Jr. and attempted murder of the agent’s father, Javier Vega Sr.
The younger Vega was gunned down in front of his family on August 3, 2014, after Tijerina-Sandoval and his accomplice, Ismael Hernandez-Vallejo, attempted to rob him to pay off a $3,500 debt to a man that was threatening Tijerina-Sandoval, according to court testimony and police statements.
Vega Jr., his wife and two kids had been fishing in Santa Monica with his father, and was struck in the chest with gunfire after pulling out his weapon in response. His father suffered a hip injury but Vega Jr. died in the attack. An immigration checkpoint in Sarita, where Vega Jr. worked, was later renamed in tribute to him.
“Even when not in uniform, Agent Vega exemplified the selflessness and devotion to public safety that makes an extraordinary agent, and this will help honor his service and sacrifice,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), had said about the fallen agent in 2017.
Ismael Hernandez-Vallejo has yet to go to trial for the same charges. Tijerina-Sandoval could receive the death penalty in the sentencing phase for his trial, which is set to begin Thursday afternoon.
The agent’s family embraced each other, friends and members of law enforcement working on the case after the guilty verdict was announced Wednesday, the Brownsville Herald reported.
Tijerina-Sandoval’s defense attorneys, following the announcement, reportedly said they would need to talk to him first to figure out how to proceed in the case.
Fox News previously reported in 2014, following Tijerina-Sandoval’s arrest, that he had been found guilty numerous times of crossing into the U.S. illegally through its southern border with Mexico. Hernandez-Vallejo was deported twice for doing the same, sources said.
In Hernandez-Vallejo’s first court appearance, he had expressed surprise at the charges that were facing him.
"I don't understand why I'm being accused of so many things," he said.
Hernandez-Vallejo has entered a not guilty plea in his case.