Warning: This story contains graphic content.
BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — A 2014 love triangle turned into a deadly standoff between two armed men, with a woman caught in the middle.
On that summer morning, Ivan Reyes lies dead on the floor of a kitchen, struck with gunfire from an M4 assault rifle. Marco Gonzalez is on the sofa, armed, with his former lover calling police pleading for help.
Throughout the course of the standoff, shots are heard while law enforcement and media await outside the home.
Two years later, the verdict was in, and a major controversy unfolded during the sentencing.
In Brownsville, the Reyes family set down roots for a better life. Brothers Ivan and Milton have big American dreams.
Milton always looked up to his older brother Ivan.
“He was very charismatic,” Milton said. “The main thing about him was he was very giving… You didn’t even have to be his friend to just do whatever he can for you. He was a mechanic so he would help people a lot in that way.”
Ivan would switch careers, delving into law enforcement as a jailer at the Cameron County Carrizales-Rucker Detention Center in Olmito. This is where he sparked a new love interest with a woman named Monica Robles.
Robles was previously in a relationship with a man named Marco Gonzalez, who had been kicked out the home a week before the shooting.
Gonzalez, also a jailer for Cameron County, was gifted an M4 assault rifle that Robles was in the process of purchasing from her ex-husband. When Gonzalez and Robles broke up, she asked to meet up somewhere to retrieve the rifle, police said.
“He said oh no, that’s not the way it’s going to be. I’m going to go return it to you,” then Brownsville Police Chief Orlando Rodriguez said.
Marco would show up to Monica’s house that morning with a fully loaded M4 assault rifle.
Deadly standoff on Orchid Path
On June 4, 2014, police received a call from Monica Robles where she could be heard crying.
“The ambulance needs to come in, the ambulance needs to come in please!,” she cried in a trembling voice.
Police received a second call from Monica’s brother, Carlos.
Carlos: Ma’am I need police over here at 203 Orchid Path.
Dispatcher: What’s going on there?
Carlos: A guy’s been shot.
Carlos: 203 Orchid Path yes, next to Benavidez Elementary School. A guy’s been shot and he’s dead on the ground.
Dispatcher: Who shot him?
Carlos: I believe an individual, he has my sister held up in her room.
At 9:47 a.m., the first officer arrives at the house. Only 15 seconds later, gunfire erupts.
The Brownsville Police Department SWAT team arrived, going door-to-door evacuating families in the neighborhood.
Investigators spoke with Monica’s ex-husband, who said he received a call from Monica telling him to tell their son that she loves him.
Additionally, he said that she told him over the phone, “Marco shot Ivan in the head… Marco shot Ivan in the head with your gun.”
In that same call, she told him that Marco was now sitting on a sofa and drinking. But at one point he entered the room pointing the gun and the call ended.
Negotiators were at the scene, and Monica’s ex-husband was now talking to Marco over the phone. Marco told him over the phone that he wasn’t going to hurt Monica, but needed to talk to her to get stuff off his chest.
He added the weapon was a Bushmaster M4 rifle.
Police made contact with Marco, who says Monica is his “ex-spouse, my girlfriend, my ex-common law until a week ago.” He tells police that he shot Reyes somewhere in the stomach, and instructs them to send two paramedics inside to get him out of the house.
Marco also called his friend Casey. Marco told his friend that Monica lied to him in the morning, and when he got to the house there was a guy there, and he popped up and scared him. That guy was Reyes and that is when Marco said he shot Reyes, calling it accidental.
Knowing he was surrounded by authorities, Marco shot at will while negotiators spent hours trying to get him to disarm himself and release his hostage.
Police then made contact with Monica.
“Tell them to back off until 4:30 p.m. Please just tell them to back off until 4:30,” she said.
Monica told police that Marco was planning to release her at 4:30, but along with that came several demands from Marco.
ValleyCentral reporter Daisy Martinez was outside of the home when shots rang out.
“Shots being fired, shot being fired right now as we speak,” she said, live on air. “There was at least five of six shots fired right now.”
This also presented a unique challenge for law enforcement, who believed Marco may have been keeping up with news reports and watching the live television broadcast of the standoff.
After hours with no progress, police decided it was time to make a move. The SWAT team was given the green light and several rounds of tear gas were deployed. Before the SWAT team enters, Monica is seen stumbling out of the home and she’s moved out of the way of danger.
After a standoff that lasted for nine grueling hours, Marco walks out of the front door with a self-inflicted gunshot to the stomach.
Authorities are able to confirm to the Reyes’ family their biggest fear. Ivan was killed.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was like how? How does this happen and why him? I just couldn’t believe it. I was just a mess,” Ivan’s father Carlos Reyes said.
The standoff on Orchid Path was now over, but the standoff in the courtroom was only beginning.
The jailer heads to jail
The former Cameron County jailer who was once closing cells now finds himself in one. He is facing a slew of charges, including capital murder, aggravated kidnapping and several counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer.
Those who watched the chaos unfold on live television believed it would be an open-and-shut case, but it was far from simple.
“It ended up being a showdown like the old Westerns — two guys facing each other and each were armed, and whoever lived was going to be prosecuted…,” Marco’s defense attorney Ernesto Gamez argued.
“Whoever’s aim is true and survives is going to be prosecuted, and in this case Marco survived, he was not killed so he was prosecuted for capital murder.”
Gamez was now tasked with getting a jury to believe Marco’s reasoning, that he killed Ivan in self defense. Marco would also have a separate trial for shooting at the officers during the standoff.
The evidence would show that Marco shot Ivan twice, once in the chest and once in the head. Marco took the stand and told jurors that he went inside of Monica’s house and saw a man he didn’t recognize. He testified that he heard her yell “gun” and that’s when he pulled the trigger.
When Monica took the stand, she told jurors that she never invited Marco inside the home.
Ivan’s family didn’t buy the self-defense argument.
“He said my son had threatened him, but my son didn’t go outside that home to threaten him. He went inside the home and threatened my son,” Ivan’s father Carlos Reyes said.
After two and a half days of deliberations, the murder trial ended in a mistrial. Nine of the jurrors believed Marco was guilty of capital murder while three believed he acted in self-defense.
Marco would remain behind bars until prosecutors and the defense team faced off in court again.
In January 2016, the second trial was underway, with the same judge and the same legal teams.
Cameron County Assistant District Attorney Peter Gilman tried to convince the new jury that Monica and Marco had a rocky relationship. The two started dating in 2010, and he had been kicked out of their house before due to excessive partying and drinking. Jurors even saw a letter that Marco left to Monica in September 2012.
In part, the letter reads “I’m sorry Monica, I don’t know what to do!! … I’m begging you on my knees to please forgive me!! I need you!! … I didn’t do anything wrong… I love you.”
She took him back, only to kick him out again. The prosecution argued that Marco just couldn’t stand seeing Monica with another man, and that’s why he killed Ivan.
On Feb. 3, 2016, the jury returned with a verdict.
“If you want to say shocking, yes it was. I was surprised,” said Brownsville Police Chief Felix Sauceda, who was the SWAT commander on the July 2014 morning of the standoff.
It was a big victory for the defense team, but Marco was still facing nine counts of aggravated assault against a peace officer. The third trial was on the way, and once again it was same judge and lawyers.
This time on Oct. 3, 2016, the jury deliberated for four hours before returning a different verdict.
Marco was found guilty on all charges.
The next day, jurors returned to sentence Gonzalez, and chaos ensued. Gonzalez was given a five year sentence.
Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz said the jury made a mistake by handing him the wrong sentence after thinking he would be given five years for each count.
“They issued a five-year verdict on each count thinking in their mind that the judge was going to stack it, thinking in their mind that he was going to end up with at least 45 years,” Saenz said.
Instead, the sentences ran concurrently, meaning that ran together. The documents did not mention to jurors whether or not the charges would run concurrently or consecutively.
With credit for time served, two of Marco’s five-year sentence were already complete.
“If we would’ve been found guilty and done the sentence according to that offense, that would’ve brought us a little bit more closure and, you know, sense of justice, but we didn’t get that,” Milton Reyes said. “After the whole thing we feel cheated by the system.”
Marco Gonzalez was released from jail in 2019.
In May, ValleyCentral was able to sit down with Marco for a few minutes, alongside his attorneys.
He said he regrets the pain he caused for all the victims involved, and that he found his faith while behind bars. While unable to reveal too much, Marco said he is holding down a job and spending time with his daughter and family who stood by him.
When asked if he would have done things differently, Marco responded that he would have.
For the Reyes family, his apologies are not enough.
“Yes, he’s free – he’s walking the streets – but I am sure that he’s never going to be free in his own mind, I mean he took a life that he didn’t have to. You think he’s going to sleep at night, just like you and I? I don’t think so.”Milton Reyes
Domestic violence is common across the Rio Grande Valley and nation. On average, 20 people experience physical abuse by an intimate partner every minute. If you or someone you know needs help, call the police or the national domestic violence hotline at 1 (800) 799-7233.
This story was a collaborative effort with ValleyCentral investigative reporter Derick Garcia, NBC23 morning/midday anchor Daisy Martinez, photojournalist Mark Munoz, digital reporter Steven Masso and creative service producers Domingo Rodriguez and Carlos Alvarez.