Family, friends mourn Texas police officers slain in ambush
The two officers were killed while responding to a domestic disturbance call
By Emily D'Gyves
The Monitor, McAllen, Texas
MCALLEN, Texas — A day after the slaying of two McAllen police officers, friends and family members are remembering their loved ones, including the alleged shooter.
Police did not disclose any more information on Sunday about the deaths of officers Edelmiro Garza Jr. and Ismael Chavez Jr., two officers killed Saturday afternoon after responding to a domestic disturbance call.
Police say they were ambushed by Audon Ignacio Camarillo, 23, as they were making their way to the home. Camarillo then reportedly shot and killed himself shortly after.
The exact circumstances around the shootings remain unknown, but according to a relative of Camarillo who spoke on condition of anonymity, Camarillo was arguing with his mother and her boyfriend, and the altercation was loud enough that a neighbor called police, the relative told The Monitor Sunday afternoon.
Attempts to reach the McAllen Police Department to confirm the relative’s version of events were unsuccessful Sunday, though Police Chief Victor Rodriguez did say Saturday during a news conference that the officers spoke with Camarillo’s mom before the shooting, and that she had reported an alleged assault.
Following the tragic news of the officers, their family members, friends and public officials have taken to social media to commemorate their lives, while others have made a makeshift memorial outside the McAllen Police Department.
Chavez, 39, was a former Weslaco East High School science teacher and football coach for nine years, according to a tweet from the Weslaco school district.
The University of Texas San Antonio alumni began working with the McAllen Police Department in November 2017, according to his Linkedin profile. He also wrote he was “transitioning into law enforcement” and indicated he had 11 years of experience in “dealing with learning resistance and personality management.”
The other officer, Garza, 45, had more than eight years of experience with the police department.
Brandy Rodriguez, who identified herself as Garza’s stepdaughter, memorialized him in an Instagram post.
“He was the only father figure I had in my life,” she wrote. “Not by blood but by bond.”
According to her post, her mom is also a police officer.
“I saw both of them put on that vest and badge with a gun strapped to the hip,” she wrote, also expressing she “never thought this would happen.”
“He was an excellent father to me and my sisters from the time we had with him,” she wrote. ”I know he’s drinking his 6 pack of Tecate in heaven right now.”
On Sunday, Gov. Greg Abbott granted permission to fly the United States and Texas flags at half-staff in their honor.
“The First Lady and I extend our prayers of comfort to the Garza and Chavez families during their time of grief,” Abbott wrote in a letter expressing his condolences to McAllen Mayor Jim Darling. “I urge all Texans to remember and honor their faithful service to the State of Texas as brave and courageous law enforcement officers.”
Additionally, Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez ordered all county buildings to lower their flags to half-staff and encouraged all flags — in government, city and school buildings — to join the county as a tribute to the fallen officers.
“Today we mourn with a heavy heart the lives of two courageous members of the City of McAllen Police Department,” Cortez said in a news release Sunday. “These two officers left an indelible mark on their community and the state of Texas. May God be with their family and friends during this difficult time.”
McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said the city is awaiting to hear from the officers’ families in reference to funeral arrangements.
Little is known about 23-year-old Camarillo, or “Audie,” as his friends and family knew him, but public records indicate he had run-ins with police, attended McAllen Memorial High School and was part of the school’s football team.
His relative said Camarillo’s family was shocked when they found out about the shooting. The relative condemned his actions, but also expressed sympathy for his family member.
“My heart goes out to all the families. Our condolences from my family to their family to the officers that were killed. It was a shame what happened and we’re very saddened by the situation that occurred, but I love my cousin,” the relative said. “I have no idea what he was thinking, I have no idea what he was going through at the time, obviously it was a hard time for him at that point.”
Camarillo’s family also took to social media to mourn his death and inferred he wrestled with tragedy at a young age. A month before his eighth birthday, Camarillo’s father died outside a Valley bar in April 2005. That had a “very big impact” on Camarillo’s life, his relative said.
“You have to look at it from his side of the story, where he wasn’t… something set him off,” the relative said. “I don’t want them to make him [look] like a monster. It was a situation where it got out of control and he ended up hurting people. He killed two officers and took his own life.”
McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez briefly cited Camarillo’s criminal history while standing near the scene of the shootings Saturday afternoon.
Joined by fellow law enforcement officials, McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez pauses for a moment during a press conference at the scene of a deadly shooting involving two of his officers on Saturday in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | email@example.com)
Rodriguez said Camarillo had previous charges for driving while under the influence, fleeing from officers, possession of marijuana and assault. At the time of the news conference, Rodriguez also said he was not aware of other instances in which McAllen police had to respond to a call at the home on Queta Avenue.
Public records show four instances in which Camarillo was booked into county jail beginning in 2016.
On April 11, 2016, a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper arrested Camarillo on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. He was given a $1,000 bond and was released.
Less than a year later, Camarillo pleaded guilty to the charge, a Class B misdemeanor, public court records show. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail, but that sentence was suspended as part of an agreement that forced Camarillo to attend court ordered classes in lieu of jail time.
Then, in August 2018, Camarillo was arrested for allegedly fleeing from a police officer after he failed to stop when “given a visual or audible signal to bring the vehicle at a stop,” the court record showed.
On Feb. 15, 2019, Camarillo was arrested in connection with possession of marijuana, after his mother called police to report that Camarillo was drinking and smoking marijuana in their backyard; adding that she believed he was also selling marijuana because of the people who would come in and out of their home.
When an officer arrived, he wrote in his report that Camarillo admitted he had marijuana in his possession and directed the officer to a table outside, where in plain view, the officer noted a small scale, a small bong, and less than a quarter of an ounce of marijuana in a small plastic baggie.
He was booked into the county jail Feb. 16, 2019, and charged with one count of possession of marijuana less than 2 ounces, a state jail felony because his residence was within 1,000 feet of a “drug free zone,” the document stated.
A month later, on March 20, 2019, Camarillo pleaded guilty to a lesser Class B misdemeanor charge and paid a $100 fine. In addition to pleading guilty to the possession of marijuana charge, Camarillo also pleaded guilty to fleeing. Both cases were closed, records show.
In his most recent arrest on June 10, Camarillo allegedly hit another man “with his hand,” the court document stated.
All of these charges are misdemeanors. Aside from the June 10 incident, all of the prior charges were dismissed in state district court.
©2020 The Monitor (McAllen, Texas)