Bond set for man wielding chainsaw at protesters

A man who was seen shouting and brandishing a chainsaw at Black Lives Matter protesters downtown McAllen on Friday was arraigned Saturday and is being held on bonds totaling $17,000.

The individual, Daniel Peña, 44, was charged with four counts of deadly conduct and one count of assault — class A misdemeanors.

Peña was arrested by McAllen police after the incident occurred Friday afternoon.

In a video of the incident, Peña can be seen yelling racial slurs and telling marchers from a Black Lives Matter demonstration to go home while revving a chainsaw.

One of the protesters Peña allegedly accosted said before the video began he ripped a sign out of another protester’s hands.

A video of the incident gained enormous traction on social media Friday, so much so that at one point “McAllen” was trending on Twitter with tens of thousands of tweets about the subject.

Mayor Jim Darling referenced the incident in a statement on social media Friday.

“The ‘chainsaw man’ has been arrested. We will not tolerate such conduct in our City of McAllen,” Darling wrote. “We apologize to the protesters that were threatened by him. That is not what we do or who we are!”

In addition, McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez confirmed Peña was linked to a truck seen in the background of the video and says it aided the investigation.

“That vehicle was able to lead us to this suspect, I would say within 45 minutes or so we were knocking on doors,” he said.

Rodriguez declined to elaborate on how Peña was linked to the vehicle. Individuals online noticed a logo for Delta Specialties Signs & Supply in Edinburg on the truck’s door and began leaving negative reviews for the business and posting about the incident on their Facebook page.

Delta Specialties Signs & Supply did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story, but they did acknowledge the incident in a Facebook post, claiming the man was not an employee.

“Delta Specialties Signs & Supply’s values and believes [sic] are not the ones represented today. The person in this video is not an employee of Delta Specialties nor does he represent our company. As for the legalities of this incident, McAllen PD will be handling the investigation,” the post said. “Delta Specialties Signs & Supply and it’s [sic] owners have been a part of the RGV community for over 35 years and want you to know that we continue to pray for healing and ask for your understanding.”

The post also voiced support with the activists.

“Please continue being the voice of change and stand for what is right. This is a time to stand united and strong,” it read. “Again, Delta Specialties Signs & Supply apologizes for this unfortunate turn of evens [sic] and we thank you for your patience and understanding.”

According to other posts on its Facebook page, Delta Specialties Signs & Supply provides signage for several local municipalities and school districts in the Rio Grande Valley.

Furthermore, the incident was not only circulated by local residents and Valley news outlets. It also gained national media attention from CNN, CBS News and Buzzfeed. Celebrities picked up the story too, including Valley native Cristela Alonzo.

“My support is with the black community,” Alonzo wrote in a social media post sharing the video. “THIS is a perfect example of how this disgusting thinking can exist within our own communities. We need to call it out. I hate this happened.”

Mercedes Schlapp — the White House’s former director of strategic communications under President Donald Trump, who left the post to join Trump’s campaign as a senior advisor — retweeted a post sharing the video with a decidedly less critical caption.

“I’d want this guy with me in a ride or die moment,” the comments Schlapp retweeted stated. “Mexican business owners know what’s up.”

The incident also generated outright support for Peña, particularly on social media. There was even a GoFundMe campaign asking for donations to pay for his legal fees.

“To be honest I’m tired about what is going on in the USA and I did step out of my truck and peacefully I told some of the protester to take it easy and go home,” the campaign website stated. “I think the Rio Grand [sic] Valley area don’t need this kind of demonstration since others are affected by the protesters and most likely some of them are not even there for the real cause. Some of them are just there to vandalized [sic.] and to affect the small local business.”

The post said the campaign was seeking donations due to the state of the economy.

“While your [sic.] reading this I’ve been charged for what i did, and I am in need of a good honest lawyer who can defend me. Since it is a difficult time economically speaking for everybody i will need to be prepared to cover all the legal fees of my case,” it read.

Before the post was removed a little before 2 p.m. Saturday it garnered over $1,700 in donations.

“I can confirm that the campaign started by Daniel Peña was removed from the platform because it violated GoFundMe Terms of Service, and all donors have been refunded,” GoFundMe representative Olivia Kealey wrote in an email.

Kealy did not elaborate on what terms had been violated before press time.

A similar GoFundMe campaign requesting donations for Peña was started shortly after the first was removed. Supporters had donated $80 by Saturday evening.

mwilson@themonitor.com