PECOS, Texas — A local man who threatened to kill area law enforcement officers and members of their families remains in federal custody after special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested him Tuesday.
Jacob Ramos Esparza, 30, of Pecos, was arrested about 1:30 a.m. outside a Pecos truck stop.
He is scheduled to have his detention hearing at 10 a.m. Thursday in Alpine, Texas, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dwight Goains.
A federal complaint filed Tuesday charges Esparza with unlawfully, knowingly and intentionally using interstate communications to threaten to injure a person. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
According to the criminal complaint, Esparza was responsible for posting several death threats to Internet chat forums that targeted the Fort Stockton (Texas) Police Department officers and their families, as well as Texas police departments in Pecos, Big Spring and Midland, and the Midland County Sheriff's Office. Additional threats were made through emails, and several contained videos depicting graphic violence to taunt law enforcement. Some of the threats included the intent to use chemical weapons, car bombs and high-caliber munitions.
HSI special agents believe that among the threats Esparza allegedly made, were some posted by username "El Diablo," offering a reward for the head of a local police officer. El Diablo further threatened to "unleash 15 pipe bombs" around the Texas cities of Pecos, Midland and Odessa. He also threatened to place pipe bombs in public places Dec. 25 to "create carnage unimaginable," and kill Fort Stockton police officers and their families using large-caliber weapons, chemical weapons and car bombs.
Dennis A. Ulrich, special agent in charge of HSI El Paso, said: "HSI takes seriously all threats against law enforcement officers. Our special agents in west Texas worked cooperatively and vigorously with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners. This arrest exemplifies the efficiency and force-multiplying effect of law enforcement agencies working together."
The following law enforcement agencies assisted with this investigation: the FBI; Fort Stockton, Pecos and Midland police departments; and Ector and Midland county sheriff's offices.
A criminal complaint is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendant is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.