Republican state Senate candidate Vanessa Tijerina was arrested Wednesday in Raymondville for several charges after someone alerted police of concerns that the GOP hopeful was driving under the influence with her children in the car.
Raymondville Police Chief Uvalde Zamora says Tijerina was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, a class C misdemeanor, interfering with public duty, a class B misdemeanor, and two charges of driving while intoxicated with child passengers, state jail felonies.
Zamora said Tijerina would be arraigned sometime Thursday morning.
A series of live videos posted to Tijerina’s Facebook page Wednesday evening show the confrontation between her and Raymondville police officers in the parking lot of a Stars Drive-in.
Over half an hour of footage shows Tijerina, who’s running for state senator in District 27, refusing to exit her vehicle, speaking to viewers on social media and eventually officers attempting to open a car door with slim jims. Zamora said the entire confrontation took about an hour and 15 minutes.
“The officer approached her and noticed a strong odor of marijuana emitting from her vehicle and her person. When he asked her about it she immediately shuts the window and locks the doors,” he said.
Tijerina secured 11,343 votes in the March primary and will face either Sara Stapleton-Barrera or incumbent Eddie Lucio Jr. (whoever wins the Democratic runoff) in the general election.
“Did you smoke any marijuana recently,” a police officer asks Tijerina toward the beginning of Wednesday’s video.
“No,” Tijerina replied emphatically.
Asked to exit her car, Tijerina declines. Officers repeatedly ask her to cooperate while she pleads to be left alone.
Tijerina claims she’s being harassed before pointing the camera at the officer.
“Odor of marijuana, guys, that’s what they’re saying. I can’t believe this,” Tijerina said in the video.
Tijerina also told officers she came to the restaurant to get a burger for one of her daughters, who are in the backseat.
“Please don’t scare my daughters, we’re fine. We’re fine,” Tijerina said.
Tijerina becomes visibly agitated as officers plead with her to talk to them.
“If you’re barely tuning in, these police, I came to get something to eat and somebody called the cops on me,” she said in the video. “This is the second time today, it’s like the third or fourth time this week, and they’re just trying to get in my car but I just want my daughters. They’re going to try to take my daughters away.”
At least 20 minutes into the encounter, officers begin attempting to open the doors of Tijerina’s car with slim jims and wedges and hooked probes.
Tijerina’s children begin crying, and on at least three occasions one of them grabs the end of the probe officers are using to try to open the vehicle.
The officer instructs the girl to let go, but she continues tugging while Tijerina films.
“She’s not going to let you,” Tijerina said. “Don’t do that to her, don’t do that to her, she’s only a little girl, she’s only protecting herself.”
Officers frequently attempt to convince Tijerina to comply with their requests.
“I need you to understand, OK,” one said between attempts to jimmy open the door. “All you have to do is open the vehicle, I’m going to search your vehicle to make sure there’s no marijuana and you’re free to go. That’s it. That’s it.”
Tijerina says she doesn’t want her daughters in CPS custody and repeatedly says that she’s contacted someone to pick them up.
“I know how you guys are,” she told officers. “I know how you guys are, this is my sixth arrest in four years, please stop.”
The last of the three live videos ends with Tijerina talking to her daughters while officers stand outside her car.
Sometime after that Zamora says Tijerina decided to comply with officers, after which she was arrested. He says it’s not the first time the department has received welfare concerns about the candidate.
“She makes a live video about everything and people call in, they’re concerned that she’s making a live video while her kids are in the car, so they’re concerned for the kids,” he said.
Zamora said children being in the car made it important for officers to gain entry.
“Our main concern is for the children,” he said. “Once the officers smelled the odor of marijuana emitting from the vehicle that became a concern, because if she was under the influence of marijuana and she’s driving, now we have a duty to protect the children, to make sure she herself is safe and the kids as well in case she should drive off.”
According to Zamora, CPS was called to the scene, but he’s not sure if they took custody of Tijerina’s daughters or if they left with a family member.