Couple angry that rifle they wanted destroyed was used to kill — (Dallas Morning News)

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The Dallas Morning News

January 29, 1999

Author: Associated Press

Police issued weapon to officer, whose son fatally shot 2 border agents[]

A Harlingen couple who donated an assault-style rifle to police for destruction are angry about where the weapon ended up.  Harlingen police issued the gun to an officer, whose son used it to kill two U.S. Border Patrol agents.

The couple’s reaction came out for the first time in a new Texas Ranger report, details of which appeared in Thursday’s Valley Morning Star.

Border Patrol Agents Susan Rodriguez and Ricardo Salinas died July 7 after Ernest Moore, son of Officer R.D. Moore, shot them in a field with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. The gun is similar to a military M-16.

The report showed that the agents never had time to react to the bullets – they never pulled their weapons from the holsters. Ernest Moore died after other officers shot him.

The agents were among the officers helping Cameron County deputies track down Mr. Moore, a suspect in the killing of a mother and daughter at a Rio Hondo home where his ex-girlfriend was staying.

Thomas and Sylvia Pirtle, who owned the AR-15, were angry to learn someone used their weapon to kill the border agents.

They gave the rifle and a 9 mm pistol to Harlingen Police Department four years ago after a rash of burglaries in their neighborhood.

“I was afraid someone would break into our house,” Mrs. Pirtle said. “It made me nervous to have the guns around.”

She requested that both weapons be destroyed. Instead, Officer Moore received the rifle.

“It’s very upsetting,” Mrs. Pirtle told the newspaper. “If they would have told me they were putting it back into service, I would’ve taken the guns back. But they didn’t give me that option.”

According to the report, Officer Moore said he kept the rifle in his safe for about two weeks before the murders, contradicting earlier comments from Harlingen police that the detective carried it with him while on patrol and locked it in his gun safe at home overnight.

The 42-page Ranger report, prepared by Sgt. Rodolfo C. Jaramillo on July 26, also said the MAC-90 semiautomatic rifle that Mr. Moore used to kill Margarita Flores and Delia Morin at their Rio Hondo home was registered to Harlingen Police Capt. Joe Vasquez.

Capt. Vasquez, who assigned the AR-15 to Officer Moore, told investigators that he sold the MAC-90 to the officer in September 1997. He said Officer Moore bought it with his son’s money.

Capt. Vasquez also told the Texas Rangers he verbally assigned the AR-15 to Officer Moore to carry in his vehicle, but the department required no documentation.

Mrs. Pirtle told the newspaper the department required no paperwork for gun donations, either.

“I had to ask for a receipt,” she said. “They weren’t going to give me one.”

Officer Moore also told the Texas Rangers he “had not qualified with the weapon, that there was no department policy requiring him to do so.”

The night before the killings, Mr. Moore attended a party where he snorted cocaine and drank beer, the report states. He also spoke to his ex-girlfriend Julie Cox before the killings and told a friend he was upset that Ms. Cox was seeing other men. Officer Moore also told investigators that his son was depressed and was taking the antidepressant Prozac.

Families of the slain Border Patrol agents have sued the city of Harlingen, former Harlingen Police Chief Jim Scheopner and Officer Moore for $10 million in each of two wrongful death lawsuits.

Record Number:  4028224

 

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The Brownsville Herald

10 year anniversary of Border Patrol shooting

 By Fernando Del Valle, Valley Morning Star

 Updated

HARLINGEN – Ten years after her brother was shot, Diana Morin blames his wounds for his death early this year.

 “It was nine years of a lot of pain,” she said of Dan Morin, who was critically wounded July 7, 1998, when his girlfriend’s ex-fiancé used an assault rifle to fire four rounds into his body in his Rio Hondo home.

In the dawn attack, Ernest Moore killed his mother Margarita Flores, 53, and his sister Delia Morin, 31, authorities said.

High on a mix of cocaine, alcohol and Prozac, Moore returned to his San Benito home, where he used his father’s police-issued assault rifle to kill U.S. Border Patrol agents Susan Lynn Rodriguez, 28, and Ricardo Guillermo Salinas, 24, according to authorities and court testimony. The ambush left sheriff’s deputy Raul Rodriguez critically wounded.

Lawmen killed Moore, 25, in a volley of gunfire near his parents’ home.

Nine years later, Dan Morin was dying of wounds from the bullets that shattered his hip, blasted his intestines and ripped his kidneys, his sister said.

On Jan. 20, Morin died at 31 after taking a painkiller that may have led to kidney failure, Diana Morin said.

Four months earlier, he had moved to Houston to study business and to try to leave the past behind, she said.

“He was putting his life back together. He was doing good. He wasn’t walking with crutches or his cane. But I guess his body was too weak,” she said. “He was hurting. He was going through a lot of pain. At least we know now he’s with my mom and sister. He’s resting.”

The shooting sprees that spurred a series of lawsuits shook the city of Harlingen, former Mayor Connie de la Garza said.

“What occurred 10 years ago was very sad and very tragic and I hope an incident like that never happens again in Harlingen,” said de la Garza, who took office two months before the shootings. “The situation it caused the victims and also the citizens was unbelievable.”

In 1995, a resident turned over an assault rifle to the Harlingen Police Department, requesting that it be destroyed.

But Harlingen police detective R.D. Moore took home the rifle that he kept in a gun safe in his son Ernest’s room, where they shared keys to the vault, according to court testimony. Authorities said it was that rifle that Ernest Moore used to kill Susan Rodriguez and Ricardo Salinas.

In 2002, a jury handed down a $35 million judgment against the city of Harlingen.

A year later, U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle dismissed the jury’s verdict. But Tagle upheld a separate $500,000 judgment that found the city of Harlingen’s negligence led to the shootings.

After 10 years, Susan Rodriguez’s spirit still fills the Austin home she shared with her daughter Megan, said Gilberto Rodriguez, her husband.

“Susan’s presence in our home is very strong,” he said. “When we say goodnight, we say goodnight to her, too.”

When he looks into his daughter eyes, he sees his wife, said Rodriguez, an investigator with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Megan was 2 when her mother Susan Rodriguez became the first female Border Patrol agent to die in the line of duty.

“Megan has a lot of the personality traits and a lot of the facial gestures that Susan had, and there’s no way she could have learned them,” Rodriguez said.

For 12-year-old Megan, her mother comes to her in her dreams, Rodriguez said.

“She has dreams where her mother is in the dreams and she feels comfort,” he said.

For Rodriguez, time helped open his heart to forgiveness, he said.

“I learned to let go of hate and anger. It’s better for her future,” he said of his daughter. “But my internal feelings and emotions are still as fresh as ever. I have pictures of my wife and I still miss her like I missed her the first week after she died.”

For Arturo Salinas, his son’s memory helps keep him going, he said.

Today – the 10th anniversary of the shootings – Border Patrol agents will join him and his wife Elisa in San Antonio when they visit his son’s grave, said Salinas, the father of Ricardo Salinas.

“It’s been tough and we’ve struggled but we managed to stay together,” Salinas said of his marriage. “We get angry at each other and blame each other. I feel kind of bad that I encouraged him to join the Border Patrol.”

When the Judson school district named its new school Ricardo Salinas Elementary last year, Border Patrol agents helped dedicate the school, Salinas said.

In 2005, his son’s memory led him to become a police officer, said Salinas, who works as a reserve Bexar County sheriff’s deputy.

“I figured if he couldn’t finish his career, I would,” Salinas said.

Like Susan Rodriguez’s soul, his son’s spirit lives, Salinas said.

“We still have Ricardo’s room at home just like he left it,” Salinas said as he fought back tears. “His clothes are in the closet and his truck’s in the garage. Ten years later, we haven’t cleaned out his room. Maybe we think he’ll come back someday.”