EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Minutes before midnight on June 8, police Officer Eduardo Garcia stopped a car for passing in a no-passing zone.
Officer Garcia, a rookie who had joined the Edinburg Police Department in April, was still learning the basics.
How to act during a traffic stop. How to write a ticket. How to properly run a records check.
That night, however, Officer Garcia also received a lesson in local politics.
“I got frustrated,” said the driver, Cody Aguirre, 20, of Edinburg. “I’m like: You’re going so slow. And then I made a mistake.”
Officer Garcia planned to let Aguirre go with a warning. A records check, though, showed a warrant for Aguirre’s arrest.
Back in November 2020, when he was 17 years old, Aguirre was caught with cocaine and THC, the psychoactive substance found in marijuana.
A grand jury indicted Aguirre on two felony charges in 2022.
According to the limited information available to Officer Garcia during the traffic stop, a judge had signed the warrant after Aguirre failed to appear in court. Aguirre insisted he’d appeared in court “yesterday.”
Before they arrested him, officers allowed Aguirre to make a few phone calls.
Aguirre called his mother. Aguirre called his roommate. And he called City Councilman Johnny Garcia.
Less than 15 minutes later, Councilman Garcia showed up — and started making his own phone calls.
In an interview, Councilman Garcia said he’d known Aguirre for years. They attended the same church. And when Aguirre had problems, Councilman Garcia had attempted to mentor him.
Councilman Garcia called Hidalgo County Court-at-Law #1 Judge Rodolfo “Rudy” Gonzalez.
Aguirre had two misdemeanor charges pending before Judge Gonzalez.
Councilman Garcia, apparently under the impression that Aguirre had just appeared in Court-at-Law #1 and the warrant had been issued by mistake, discussed the situation with Judge Gonzalez.
A few minutes later, Judge Gonzalez called back and spoke with the officers.
“This is Judge Rudy Gonzalez from Court #1. On this young man, I’m issuing a release,” Judge Gonzalez said, adding that he would address the warrant. “If you have to pick him up, I guess you have to do what you have to do, but I’m actually going to do a release and I can email it to you guys or send you a photocopy of the release.”
After contacting a supervisor, the officers released Aguirre.
“You know who I am, right?” Councilman Garcia told Officer Garcia after Aguirre was released.
“Si,” Officer Garcia said. “Yeah, I know.”
The warrant, however, wasn’t from Court-at-Law #1.
“It was actually a warrant out of the 430th District Court,” said Hidalgo County District Attorney Terry Palacios.
Palacios said he didn’t understand how Councilman Garcia convinced the officers to release Aguirre based on a call from Judge Gonzalez, who hadn’t issued the warrant.
“He is a city councilman. I guess they took his word,” Palacios said. “I have no idea.”
It’s inappropriate for an elected official to intervene during an arrest, Palacios said. Depending on the circumstances, the elected official could be charged with a crime.
“I told Johnny: I know you don’t have any criminal intent, but you can’t be doing that,” Palacios said.
Councilman Garcia maintained that he didn’t do anything wrong. He’s known Aguirre for years and just wanted to help.
“So because they didn’t find anything legally that I had done, that’s why they started asking, you know, if there’s anything ethically that he might have done wrong,” Councilman Garcia said.
In the end, “everything was cleared,” Councilman Garcia said.
While the incident didn’t result in criminal charges, Palacios said he remains concerned about what happened.
“I talked to Johnny and told him: Don’t do that again, please,” Palacios said.