An illegal alien convicted of gunning down a Border Patrol officer in Texas could become the 54th Mexican national on America’s Death Row.
A Cameron County jury took barely two hours to find Gustavo Tijerina-Sandoval guilty of capital murder and attempted capital murder. The 34-year-old with a history of illegal border crossings had confessed to shooting Javier Vega Jr. on Aug. 3, 2014.
Tijerina-Sandoval and another illegal alien, Ismael Hernandez-Vallejo, were arrested hours after Vega was killed and his father was shot while the family was fishing near Harlingen. Hernandez-Vallejo will stand trial on the same murder charges in August.
After nearly four years of legal wrangling over the location of the trial, the Brownsville jury quickly delivered its guilty verdict against Tijerina-Sandoval. State District Judge Migdalia Lopez will now determine whether he gets the ultimate punishment. At last count, 53 Mexican citizens have death sentences pending in U.S. prisons.
Tijerina-Sandoval previously was found guilty of repeatedly crossing into the U.S. illegally. Hernandez-Vallejo had been deported twice for doing so.
Since 2012, 13 Border Patrol officers have died in the line of duty in Texas and Arizona.
Vega’s death was classified as occurring in the line of duty after authorities determined the officer pulled his gun trying to protect others. A South Texas immigration checkpoint in Sarita, where Vega was stationed, was renamed in his honor.