BY NAXIELY LOPEZ-PUENTE, MATT WILSON AND EMILY D’GYVES | STAFF WRITERS

Camarillo from his June 10 arrest (Courtesy of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office)

Standing down the street where two McAllen police officers were shot and killed, a visibly distraught Police Chief Victor Rodriguez was pained Saturday in disclosing the details of two of his officers who died responding to a domestic disturbance earlier that day.

Speaking during a news conference held at the scene of the shooting, Rodriguez identified the fallen policemen as officers Edelmiro Garza, 35, and Ismael Chavez, 39.

Garza had more than eight years of experience as an officer with the McAllen Police Department, while Chavez had more than two.

According to Rodriguez, the officers answered a disturbance call in the vicinity of the 3500 block of Queta Street at about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, initially meeting two individuals who reported assaults occurring inside a nearby home.

When officers tried to enter the home, the alleged shooter, whom police identified as 23-year-old Audon Ignacio Caramillo, opened fire.

“They were doing their job,” Rodriguez said. “That is what they were supposed to do. The person was a suspect of the incident, met our officers at the door, and shot at both officers. Both officers suffered fatal wounds, they have both passed away as a result…

“The officers never had a chance to suspect deadly assault on them, much less death.”

Public records indicate Caramillo had a few run-ins with police beginning in 2016 to his most recent arrest last month on assault charges. 

Additional details about the domestic disturbance Garza and Chavez responded to remain unclear. Rodriguez did say, however, that the ambush was so sudden that fellow police officers didn’t learn of their deaths until they drove through the area moments later.

Earlier Saturday, Rodriguez referred to these officers as “brave public servants,” and foresees a difficult time ahead of the department.

“The next few days for us, moving forward as well, will be very, very difficult, for ourselves at the department and at the city of McAllen, but our strength will get us through,” the chief said. “We gather our strength from our police officers, and we gather our strengths from our colleagues, as you can see here.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott spoke with Rodriguez and offered the full support of the state.

Abbott also took to Twitter to express that support. 

“Two of our finest were killed in the line of duty while working to protect residents in their community,” Abbott wrote on Twitter. “We unite to #BackTheBlue.”

The chief said that although police are “weakened for the moment,” he anticipates a resilient law enforcement community persevering.

“… The strength and the resolve we have to serve our communities, all of us here, will allow us to do what we do every day,” Rodriguez said.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, also expressed his condolences in a news release Saturday.

“This is devastating news to our community. My heart breaks for these fallen officers and their families,” Gonzalez said in the statement. “They served McAllen bravely and honorably and I will keep them in my prayers.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted his office will provide the McAllen Police Department any assistance needed.

“Our prayers and full support are with the valiant men and women of the #CityofMcAllen PD this evening,” the tweet read. “We are grateful for police in McAllen and around this great state.” 

Lt. Christopher Olivarez, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said DPS were among the agencies to assist McAllen police on Saturday.

Troopers specifically helped McAllen police by securing the scene, Olivarez said, adding that his agency received a call about the incident around 4:30 p.m.

A man who lives near the area, and who would only identify himself as G. Lopez, said he was working in his yard when he saw the officers arrive around 4 p.m.

McAllen police officers investigate a shooting that left two McAllen police dead on corner of Queta avenue and 35th street on Saturday, July 11, 2020, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Shortly after, Lopez said he heard five to six gunshots.

“I have a couple of guns; that wasn’t fireworks,” he said.

According to Lopez, additional law enforcement arrived 10 or 15 minutes later.

“After that, everybody showed up and then I heard one shot,” he said. “When I heard that one shot everybody swarmed.”

Lopez said before the shooting it was an otherwise quiet day in the neighborhood.

Garza’s and Chavez’s deaths occurred nearly one year after two other Rio Grande Valley law enforcement officers lost their lives for their work in the line of duty.

Cpl. Jose Luis Espericueta of the Mission Police Department was shot and killed on June 20, 2019, while responding to reports of an armed man.

DPS Trooper Moises Sanchez died in August 2019 after undergoing surgery for injuries sustained in an April 6 shooting that year while Sanchez responded to a motor vehicle accident in Edinburg.

At one point during the news conference, an emotional Rodriguez reminded that police have new threats to face every day, but remain diligent in their duties.

“In the face of a pandemic, our officers went to a door today to serve,” he said.