• Local SWAT training amid recent kidnappings

Posted: Monday,
November 24, 2014 8:54 pm


SAN JUAN — “Go, go, go!” SWAT team members shouted as they jumped out of their vehicle and swarmed a suspect’s vehicle while a patrol car pinned it from the front. Caught off guard by the quick coordination and weapons drawn on him, the suspect surrendered and the victim was pulled to safety.

The Law Enforcement Emergency Regional Response Team, a local, multi-agency SWAT team, recently practiced kidnapping and hostage situations amid a string of kidnappings in the area.

After the training, San Juan Police Chief Juan Gonzalez and other supervisors discussed strategy and options available to the SWAT members to refine their skills.

Gonzalez, who leads the LEERRT team, said that tactical training is flexible and allows for adaptation to focus on current issues officers are facing.

“That’s what’s good about this team is that we always try to integrate new training and try to implement things that are happening right now,” he said. “We talked about presence of kidnappings and home invasions in Hidalgo County.”

Gonzalez said the latest kidnappings have put several law enforcement agencies on alert and more focus on his SWAT team to be prepared for these situations.

In one such incident on Oct. 29, a passing motorist called police to report a kidnapping after she saw three men forcefully remove a woman from a pickup truck in the 1100 block of West Sioux Road in Pharr.

Police arrived moments later but the woman, Elia Flores, 39, of Pharr, was gone. Her body was found several days afterward in a rural field.

The body of Victor Garcia, 26, of McAllen, who police believe was the truck’s driver, was also discovered in another field. Both murders are still being investigated.

In an unrelated incident on Nov. 6, Elsa police were called out after a witness saw a man repeatedly punch a woman and force her into his older model Chevy pickup truck along David Ybarra Street.

The woman was described as Hispanic in her early 30s with short blonde hair while the suspect was described as a Hispanic man with a dark complexion. This investigation is also ongoing.

LEERRT is comprised of 24 officers from smaller law enforcement agencies including La Joya, Peńitas, Palmhurst, Sullivan City, Donna, Alamo, Palmview, and San Juan.

Palmview Police spokesman Lt. Saul Uvalle said their department greatly benefits from the LEERRT training.

“The advantage that it brings is additional manpower,” Uvalle said. “By having these SWAT members on call they can gather up the team quick enough to have a rapid response to critical incidents in the city.”

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