"Border Patrol agent had arsenal in home, attempted "suicide by cop," officials say" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the chosen name of one of the victims.
A South Texas U.S. Border Patrol agent accused of killing four people appeared to be preparing for a shoot-out with law enforcement after a would-be victim broke free and alerted police, authorities said Monday.
Juan David Ortiz, 35, was arrested early Saturday after the woman escaped from his vehicle, encountered Department of Public Safety troopers and told them Ortiz had brandished a weapon.
During a press conference on Monday, Webb County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Federico Garza said as soon as Ortiz was spotted by the troopers, he went home and prepared for what he expected would be a shoot-out with law enforcement.
“At that time he had numerous, numerous weapons and he was loading up all this weapons thinking that DPS was going to confront him," Garza said. "He was looking at a confrontation. Thank God that didn’t happen.”
Instead, Ortiz fled to a hotel parking lot and tried to commit “suicide by cop," Garza said.
“He tried to use his phone to make it look like it was weapon, [but] he was apprehended without incident,” Garza said.
Ortiz is accused of going on a killing spree that began Sept. 3, when he allegedly shot Melissa Ramirez, 29, in the back of the head after pulling over over on a rural stretch of road. Court documents say Ortiz then shot Claudine Loera, 42, who was found on Sept. 13, followed by Humberto Ortiz, who Isidro “Chilo” Alaniz, the district attorney for Webb and Zapata counties, said was a transgender woman. The body of Ortiz, who went by Janelle according to her mother, was found on Sept. 15. The fourth victim was identified Wednesday as Griselda Alicia Hernandez Cantu, 35. Hernandez Cantu was also gunned down on Sept. 15, according to Ortiz's arrest affidavit.
Authorities have charged Juan David Ortiz with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated kidnapping. He is being held on a $2.5 million bond.
Authorities said the victims were sex workers and Ortiz preyed upon them because he knew they were "vulnerable and defenseless." Garza said Ortiz told authorities after his arrest that he disliked "the community they represented."
“Whatever anger he had inside of him, we don’t know yet,” he said.
Customs and Border Protection officials said there was nothing in Ortiz’s background that would have raised a red flag for the agency when he was hired in 2009.
Alaniz said his office will decide over the next few months whether to charge Ortiz with capital murder and seek the death penalty.
At Monday's press conference, law enforcement officials said they believe Ortiz acted alone. They also said they can’t guarantee they won’t find more victims as they continue to investigate the killings.
“It’s still an ongoing investigation and we’ll do a historical research on everywhere that he has been and see if we have a pattern of victims,” Garza said.