Ismael Chavez was a coach and science teacher before becoming a McAllen, Texas, police officer. His sister described him in a Facebook tribute as the “most selfless person you would ever met.”
“He always said that we needed to love everyone even the most unlovable because that’s what God would do,” Chiara Yvette Cavazos wrote. Audry Michelle Chavez wrote, “Please give my family all your prayers. This is unbelievable. I cannot believe this is REAL. I’m tired of my family being hurt by other people’s actions. 😓 RIP to my cousin, Smiley. God bless this family.”
McAllen Police Officer Edelmiro Garza, Jr., died at Chavez’s side. He was 45 years old.
Now the families, community, and nation are left to grieve the two officers who, Police Chief Victor Rodriguez says, “did not draw their weapons, didn’t fire, never stood a chance.”
The police chief vowed, however, that the McAllen force would go on with strength and resolve.
“Every day in the face of adversity, whatever the nature of it may be in these last few years, we’ve talked about the national narrative, people against police… in the face of that adversity, we rise and we serve,” he said.
“In the face of a pandemic, officers went to a door today to serve regardless of the threats to us, to our health, to our safety and to our families as well. So we will rise again, and I think we will be stronger for that.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A Woman Who Considered Chavez a Father Figure Wrote That He Died ‘Doing What You Loved Most’ in a Post
A woman named Savannah shared a tribute to Chavez on Twitter, writing, “words cannot describe the pain I’m in, but I’m glad my dad is at peace. you were an amazing man and anyone who ever came across you knew that. I’m going to miss you so much. you died doing what you loved most, you died a hero. i love you daddy, see you soon. #bluelivesmatter.” She also wrote that she missed the officer.
She also wrote:
I’m so proud of you and all your accomplishments and I’m proud to call you my father. i can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done. I thank God for putting you in my life. you will forever be in my heart. thank you for making me the happiest ‘princess’ ever.
A man responded, “Your father was my field training officer. He loved his job. This Yeti cup was a gift that I gave your father after my field training phase. You and your family are in my heart and mind. My condolences on the passing of your father. We are here for you.”
Savannah later deleted the first tweet, and a relative wrote, “For literally ANYONE that is giving MY cousin sh*t for grieving her FATHER, can literally go to f*cking hell. this man was the most loving and caring person anyone could ever meet! it’s pathetic how people can be so unsympathetic to a girl that is trying to commemorate her father.”
The officer’s sister, however, has clarified on Facebook that Officer Chavez did not have biological children. She said that Savannah “held a very special place in his heart” and “served as a father figure to Savannah Benavides.” She wrote:
My family and I have no words to describe the emptiness we feel. We have stayed off of social media for many many reasons but I cant help but share this video. To the person who made it thank you for showing the world a glimpse of the wonderful person my brother was. My brother was the most selfless person you would ever meet. He always said we needed to love everyone even the most unlovable because that’s what God would do. My brother lived his life as a God fearing man. There has been plenty of phone calls made to my family about him having a child and I would like to clarify it. My brother did not have any biological children. He was never married. He was so full of Love and he served as a father figure to Savannah Benavides which is the little girl circulating all over social media. We as a family would like to clarify this for the sole purpose of clarity. Savannah held a very special place in his heart and we will continue to respect that bond. Thank you for all the love and support and we ask everyone to forgive us for not answering we just cannot wrap our head around this and emotions are everywhere right now. May God bless each and every person praying for us.
Savannah wrote in a follow-up tweet, “I want to start by thanking each and everyone of you for the prayers and support. I am humbled by it. When I posted the pictures of my dad and I, it was not to cause chaos. With that being said I would like to clarify the relationship, Ismael Chavez is not my biological father, but he is the man who stepped up and help (sic) raise me, and for that I will forever be grateful.”
Ruben Rodriguez responded to that tweet writing, “Chavez told me not to long ago that he wanted to adopt you. He took caring for you very seriously. I miss him.”
Another relative shared a tweet from someone criticizing Savannah for using a blue lives matter hashtag. Other people also criticized Savannah on Twitter for using what they referred to as a “racist hashtag.” Heavy has reached out to Savannah and her cousin for comment. You can read more about the criticism she received here.
On Instagram, Savannah shared a similar message and added, “I’m so proud of you and all your accomplishments and I’m proud to call you my father. i can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done. I thank God for putting you in my life. you will forever be in my heart. It’s my turn to make you proud. everything i do, i do for you. #McallenPD.”
Another friend remembered Chavez, writing, “my prayers go out to you and your family. He was such a sweet man and always greeted me with such respect and kindness during my time with McAllen PD. He was also a great colleague and friend when working alongside my daddy. May God be with you during this time.”
According to the Rodriguez, the two officers responded to a call for a domestic disturbance around 3:30 p.m. on July 11. The suspect has been named as Audon Ignacio Rodriguez, a 23 year old man with a string of past arrests.
“We met one of the complaining parties away from the location of the incident,” Rodriguez said.
“The complaining person reported assaults going on at the house by (Caramillo),” the chief said. He said that the officers’ next approach next step is to proceed to the residence to investigate what was going on. As they did so, they met another person in the front of the yard who substantiated the call that there was a disturbance, “maybe some assaults taking place in the home with the individual.”
The next step, said Rodriguez, was for the officers to “go to the door of the residence.”
“They’re doing their job; that is the way it’s supposed to” be done, said Rodriguez. He said the callers were the wife and mother of Caramillo.
2. Chavez Previously Worked as a Football Coach & Science Teacher
Chavez was a football coach and former science teacher. “The WISD family is mourning the loss of former WEHS science teacher & football coach Ismael Chavez. He was employed by WISD, for approximately 9 yrs. Today Chavez & Officer Edelmiro Garza were tragically killed in the line of duty. Our deepest condolences go out to their families,” wrote Weslaco ISD.
Chavez was an officer for about 2.5 years. A friend wrote Chavez’s daughter on Twitter that her father “was the coolest teacher I had back in high school.”
The chief described an ambush at the front door. “The person, the suspect of the incident met our officers at the door and shot both officers as they stood there,” Rodriguez said. “Both officers suffered fatal wounds, they have both passed away as a result.”
Eventually, other officers who were in the area did a standard “roll by” to check on the officers who were on the call. They saw the officers down.
“It was the first time we in McAllen PD knew that we had officers down,” said the chief. “The officers never had a chance to suspect deadly assault on them much less death.”
3. The Governor Called Garza & Chavez ‘Two of Our Finest’
The chief vowed that officers would be only “weakened for the moment but the strength and the resolve we have to serve our communities, all of us here, will allow us to do what our officers do every day,” he said.
Governor Greg Abbott wrote on Twitter:
Two of our finest were killed in the line of duty while working to protect residents in their community.
I’ve spoken with McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez and offered the full support of the State of Texas.
We unite to #BackTheBlue.
Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement on Twitter.
“Our prayers and full support are with the valiant men and women of the #CityofMcAllen PD this evening. This office will provide any assistance requested in the days ahead. We are grateful for police in McAllen and around this great state,” he wrote.
4. Garza Was a Nearly 9-Year Veteran of the McAllen Police Force
The police chief said that Garza had worked as a McAllen police officer for nearly nine years.
According to Rodriguez, the second group of officers approached the down police officers, and Caramillo exited the home.
“He is behind a particular vehicle in front of the home,” said Rodriguez. “Officers ordered him to put his gun down; the individual at that point in time raises the gun to commit suicide. That is the whole extent of the incident.”
He said that the deaths were “very difficult,” adding of the fallen officers: “The officers came here to maintain peace. Instead, they were taken down by gunfire. The next few days for us,will be very very difficult for ourselves and the department and the city of McAllen.”
5. The Suspect Has a Past Criminal History
According to Rodriguez, Caramillo has a past criminal history.
“Our initial information about the suspect he has previous charges,” the chief said, listing them as fleeing from a police officer, DWI, liquor violations, assault, and possess of marijuana.
“Our strength will get us through,” Rodriguez said. “We gather our strength from our police officers, from our colleagues, from our leaders in our city. I can not tell you how many calls I have taken or missed.”
The Monitor reported that his most recent arrest was in June for assault.