September 4, 2008

Deputy takes down suspect after struggle

By Ron Maloney
The Gazette-Enterprise

SEGUIN — Labor Day weekend was no holiday for Sheriff’s K-9 officer Brian Wahlert.

Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Investigator Lt. Kevin Jordan said Wahlert, who patrols the county’s roads and highways at night with his chocolate lab police dog, “Sir,” looking for folks who transport illegal drugs, was on patrol just before 1 a.m. Monday on westbound Interstate 10 at mile marker 604 when he saw a Honda Civic make a lane change twice without signalling.

Wahlert tried to stop the car at mile marker 605, and as he pulled onto the shoulder of the interstate, he saw the driver open the door of the still-moving vehicle and bail out.

Wahlert called for backup, checked the car to ensure nobody else was inside and took off after the man, later identified as Miguel de Jesus Gomez-Ramirez, 22, of Houston.

Jordan said it took Wahlert 100 yards to catch up with Gomez-Ramirez and take him down.

When he did, the man struggled to his feet — and took off again.

Wahlert pulled his collapsible steel baton as he chased the man, Jordan said, tackling him. This time, the man struggled from the deputy’s grasp again, but instead of running away took a fighting stance to confront the officer, who struck him twice in the legs — only to watch him take off again, and have to chase him down again.

The third time he struggled with Gomez-Ramirez, Jordan said, Wahlert pepper-sprayed him, but the man still broke away, and Wahlert had to tackle him again.

He kept fighting the deputy reported, but he got the man handcuffed and dragged him back to the side of the interstate.

Investigation revealed Gomez-Ramirez was an undocumented immigrant.

When Wahlert checked the inside of the car, he found its ignition had been punched out. The car turned out to have been stolen in Harris County, Jordan said.

Gomez-Ramirez, 22, was treated for his injuries by Seguin Fire Department paramedics, was booked for attempting to resist or evade arrest and was then taken to county jail.

Jordan said the kind of work Wahlert does often takes place in remote areas far from backup and can be dangerous — particularly when chasing a suspect into the woods in the dark.

“He did a pretty good job in a difficult situation,” Jordan said of Wahlert. “We recovered this vehicle and made an arrest.”

But that wasn’t Wahlert’s only weekend arrest, Jordan said. At 11:13 p.m. Friday, Wahlert and “Sir” were on patrol in the 5000 block of State Highway 80 when an oncoming car failed to dim its headlights.

When Wahlert pulled the vehicle over, he reported its three occupants, soldiers at Fort Hood, appeared extremely nervous.

The deputy asked if they were carrying any weapons or contraband, and they denied they were, but they also denied him consent to look in the car.

“Sir,” whose job is to find illegal drugs, was walked by the vehicle, and “alerted” on its back seat, Wahlert reported, which constituted probable cause for a search.

Wahlert found a crumpled potato chip bag in the back of the vehicle. Inside was a hollowed-out cigar husk with a plastic bag containing a residue of what appeared to be marijuana, Jordan said. Further investigation revealed a hand-rolled marijuana cigar, sometimes called a “blunt” or a “splif.”

Raymond Grandy, 22, of Killeen, was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia, Jordan said.

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Should the Texas State Legislature pass immigration enforcement laws in 2009?