Grand jury clears Sheriff's Office sergeants who shot Gulf Cartel operative

Investigators obtained multiple arrest warrants for Santos Cortez Hernandez, including a warrant for criminal attempted murder.

The two Hidalgo County Sheriff TMs Office sergeants who shot and killed a reputed Gulf Cartel operative during April have been cleared by a grand jury.

On Tuesday afternoon, a randomly selected grand jury impaneled by state District Judge Rudy Delgado declined to indict the two sergeants.

Along with a team of investigators, the sergeants attempted to arrest 25-year-old Santos Cortez Hernandez, the reputed Gulf Cartel operative, near Mission on April 20. They shot Hernandez when he reached for a semi-automatic handgun, according to the Sheriff TMs Office.

After reviewing the fatal shooting, grand jurors voted against charging the two sergeants with aggravated assault by a public servant, a first-degree felony.

No agency likes for an officer-involved shooting " or any shooting " to occur or for anybody to lose their life, said Division Chief Oscar Montoya. Unfortunately in the law enforcement world, these kinds of things happen.

Concerned about links between Hernandez and the Gulf Cartel, the Sheriff TMs Office asked KGBT-TV not to identify the sergeants for safety reasons.

Both men have spent more than 15 years with the Sheriff TMs Office. Personnel records don TMt show any disciplinary action or allegations of misconduct against them.

In April, the Sheriff TMs Office assigned the sergeants to Operation Lockdown, a multi-agency plan to arrest Hernandez.

Investigators had linked Hernandez to drug trafficking, immigrant smuggling, auto theft and burglary organizations operating throughout western Hidalgo County. They obtained multiple arrest warrants, including a warrant for criminal attempted murder.

Every time they spotted him, Hernandez ran.

I'm trying to use better words than ~balls to the wall, TM but he'd run, Montoya said during an interview shortly after the shooting. He'd book it, fast."

The Sheriff TMs Office called off several vehicle pursuits, concerned that chasing Hernandez would hurt innocent bystanders. When deputies went after him, Hernandez would ditch them by fleeing on foot through brushy areas.

And it was obvious he knew that area very well, because once he got into that field we couldn't set a perimeter up fast enough to catch him, Montoya said.

Investigators designed Operation Lockdown to catch Hernandez, positioning law enforcement officers on a perimeter to stop him from slipping away.

At about 5 p.m. on April 20, the Sheriff TMs Office sent several investigators and the two sergeants to a wood-frame home near the intersection of 5 Mile Line and Schuerbach Road.

They spotted a light green four-door Mazda parked nearby, according to a supplemental report about the shooting obtained through a public information request.

Investigators knew Hernandez drove a similar vehicle. They approached the house.

An investigator who waited near the car heard someone shout no te muevas, no te muevas " don TMt move in Spanish " followed by several shots, according to the supplemental report, which doesn TMt describe the shooting itself.

After taking cover behind the car, the investigator ran toward the home.

The investigator witnessed the two sergeants struggling to handcuff Hernandez, who had black and gray semi-automatic handgun underneath him.

A sergeant grabbed the handgun and tossed the weapon to the floor.

The investigator picked up the handgun and observed it to be empty with no magazine inside the magazine weld and no live round on the chamber, according to the supplemental report.

Hernandez had been shot five or six times, according to the supplemental report.

He died before the ambulance arrived.

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