Gilmer Hernandez in Del Rio, Texas, prison (Photo: SWTexasLive.com)
A former deputy sheriff in Texas, jailed for shooting at a van loaded with illegal aliens whose driver was trying to run him down, has been released from prison and says he was set up by the Mexican consulate and the prosecutor.
Former Deputy Sheriff Gilmer Hernandez was released yesterday from a halfway house, finishing the prison term to which he was sentenced for the shooting incident, in which two fleeing Mexican illegal aliens were wounded. He was in federal prison from Dec. 1, 2006, to Sept. 13, 2007, about 10 and a half months.
While he’s happy to be home, Hernandez feels he suffered an injustice at the hands of the U.S. government, which acted at the direction of the Mexican government.
“The prosecution was not right,” he told WND. “The prosecution used their tactics, which was a bunch of lies, let’s put it that way, I would never have been prosecuted if the Mexican consulate had not demanded it.”
As WND reported earlier, Rocksprings Sheriff Don Letsinger said investigators had no plans to bring charges against Hernandez until the Mexican government intervened and demanded the prosecution.
“Deputy Hernandez had a right to stop that vehicle,” Letsinger told WND. “Can you look at what happened and say that Deputy Hernandez intentionally wanted to injure someone in that vehicle? You cannot. Deputy Hernandez did not want to injure anyone that day. He fired at the tires to stop the vehicle and he was justified in doing so.”
WND also reported the incident was investigated by the Texas Rangers who also did not recommend Hernandez be prosecuted.
“I was doing my job out there,” Hernandez told WND yesterday. “It was a split-second decision and I feared for my life. I discharged my weapon at the tires to stop the van, not to injure anybody. I was trying to save myself and others. The vehicle was trying to run over me and I was concerned innocent people were going to get hurt.”
He served more than seven months, from Dec. 1, 2006, to June 7, 2007, in solitary confinement.
“The visits of my wife and hearing her on the phone sustained me while I was in total lock-down,” Hernandez told WND in an exclusive telephone interview. “The letters I got from home and my faith pulled me through the hardest times.”
He’s re-united with his wife and 14-month-old daughter in Rocksprings, Texas, now.
“I feel good and my family feels good,” he told WND. “It feels great to be back home, with my wife and my daughter.”
Hernandez was sentenced to one year plus one day in federal prison, even though federal prosecutors had recommended a much more severe seven-year prison term for Hernandez.
Jimmy Parks, defense counsel for Hernandez, told WND in a telephone interview yesterday that Hernandez chose not to appeal his conviction largely because of the light sentence.
“Gilmer loves his family,” Parks told WND. “He wanted to get back to his family quickly, so he could put this incident behind him.”
Parks explained that Hernandez might still be waiting the decision of the appellate court.
“Even if he got a new trial,” Parks explained to WND, “there was no certainty he would be found innocent. If convicted he might have been given a much more severe sentence. He did not want to take the risk.”
Unless he is pardoned, Hernandez will face the rest of his life as a convicted felon.
“Gilmer is a hard-working young man who loves his family,” Parks said. “He is doing his best not to feel embittered, betrayed by the government.”
Hernandez told WND that he has a job to begin working with the telephone company at the end of this month.
“The support of people of this town and the thousands of people I never met throughout the United States has brought us through this experience,” he said.
“We did not have to lose our home or vehicle,” he told WND. “Contributions from friends in Rocksprings and supporters nationwide supported my family while I was in prison.”
He told WND that the prison authorities had treated him respectfully, especially once he was released from solitary confinement.
In the last months of his prison term, he was provided books, newspapers, magazines and support letters written to him from the public.
Hernandez told WND he would not rule out returning to law enforcement, if provided the opportunity.
“I know I’ve answered the question that I would never return to law enforcement,” he said, “but the truth is that if I were given a second chance to be back to law enforcement, I would do it.”
As WND reported, Hernandez was prosecuted for injuring two Mexican illegal aliens in a van. Hernandez fired at the van’s tires as the illegals escaped from a routine traffic stop, attempting to run over the officer.
As WND also reported, El Paso U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton decided to prosecute Hernandez only after the Mexican consulate in Eagle Pass, Texas, wrote a series of letters to U.S. law enforcement officers and political officials demanding Hernandez be prosecuted for injuring two Mexican nationals who were in the van – being brought into the United States illegally by coyotes.
Sutton was also the prosecutor in the high-profile case of Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, who are serving 11- and 12-year sentences for their roll in the shooting of Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, an illegal Mexican alien who had transported 750 pounds of marijuana across the Texas border in a van.
WND also reported the two illegal aliens injured in the incident, Maricela Rodriquez-Garcia and Candio Garcia-Perez, won a $100,000 settlement in a lawsuit against Hernandez and Letsinger.
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, agrees with Letsinger that Hernandez was victimized.
“The Mexican government wanted a Texas deputy sheriff prosecuted and they got their way,” Poe told WND.
Hernandez’s website can be viewed at FreeGilmer.com.
The U.S. Border Watch, which has monitored the Hernandez case, is planning a welcome home event in Rocksprings Oct. 20.