HIDALGO COUNTY, TEXAS — In Part One of our exclusive report on crime statistics in Hidalgo County, Texas, we saw shocking hidden-camera video as a crime analyst admitted downgrading crimes on the sheriff’s orders. In Part Two, we heard from a whistle-blowing deputy, who described the political pressure within the department to downgrade crimes, and even to stop fighting crime altogether. The deputy described supervisors pressuring subordinates even to refrain from setting up routine traffic stops so they will not discover more serious crimes to report. The hidden-camera video and the deputy’s testimony paint a picture of a county that is systematically being lied to so that a sheriff can get re-elected , the federal funds can keep rolling in, and the federal government can claim that this border community is safer than ever.
But what does this mean to the people who live along the border?
Take the case of Reynaldo Zapata Hernandez. According to the official Progress Case Report that we have exclusively obtained, Hernandez, who had been involved in illegal drugs for years, was abducted on the Texas side of the U.S.-Mexico border on September 17, 2011. The report states that Hernandez was taken, along with his mother, by people who were posing as U.S. government agents. These agents convinced Hernandez to cross into Reynosa, Mexico, and then into the Mexican countryside, where he was then taken by unknown people who still remain at large. Hernandez’s mother returned to Texas.
Reynaldo Hernandez went missing, but on January 5, 2012, his family finally heard what had become of him: He had been found in Reynosa, beaten to death.
But on the day that Hernandez’s family learned of Reynaldo’s death, the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office reclassified his murder. It was no longer treated as a kidnapping and murder, but was downgraded to a “welfare concern.”