Melecio Lopez-Hernandez, 39, pleaded guilty to the assault and will face deportation after serving the sentence. The 39-year-old was walking through the brush south of Freer, Texas, when he encountered a Border Patrol agent. As the agent attempted to detain him, Lopez-Hernandez began to struggle and managed to dislodge a flashlight that was attached to the agent’s outer vest.
Lopez-Hernandez then verbally threatened the agent before he hit him in the head with the flashlight, the statement said. The agent was injured in the attack.
During the hearing, Lopez-Hernandez’s attorney attempted to convince the court that his client had thought the agent was a cow and became startled when the figure approached. But District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo was not persuaded.
“She further found the flashlight he used was a dangerous weapon under the law and noted Lopez-Hernandez had a clear intent to harm the agent based on the evidence,” the statement said.
Lopez-Hernandez will remain in custody pending a transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has previously underscored the dangers border patrol agents face each day while carrying out duties at the border.
In the 2018 fiscal year, there were 794 incidents of assaults against border patrol agents.
In March this year, an agent patrolling near the border fence in Calexico, California, was assaulted, CBP said in a statement.
Border patrol said the 33-year-old suspect from Mexico, Josue Gomez-Reyes, approached the female agent’s fully marked patrol vehicle. Gomez-Reyes threw a partial lawnmower blade into the vehicle, which landed on the driver side window. The blade broke through the window and hit the agent’s arm. The agent was injured by the blade and shattered glass.
Despite the injury, the agent immediately chased after the suspect and with the help with other agents, the suspect was arrested.
“It is unacceptable for our Border Patrol agents to come under such a violent attack, but I am extremely proud of the quick determination of our agent to give chase and arrest her attacker,” said Chief Patrol Agent Gloria I. Chavez, according to the statement.
Gomez-Reyes was illegally present in the United States at the time of the incident.
In a more recent case in June, another border patrol agent was injured after a person threw a rock into his vehicle while he was also patrolling in Calexico, California.
“[CBP ElCentro] had one of its BorderPatrol agents assaulted while patrolling in Calexico. Our Agents face dangers like this one while maintaining the security of our nation,” the federal agency wrote on Twitter, while also posting photos of the agent’s injuries and damage to the patrol vehicle.
The agency did not provide any details as to the circumstances of the assault or whether they had apprehended the perpetrator.
The federal agency has repeatedly warned that the influx of illegal immigrants from Central America in recent months has overwhelmed border patrol facilities and resources and created a humanitarian crisis.