Your Source for NPR News & Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

El Paso Walmart victim's family “terrified” of DA Yvonne Rosales and Vinton Municipal Judge, court filing states

A woman prays at a makeshift memorial for shooting victims at the Cielo Vista Mall Walmart, in El Paso, Texas in 2019.
Mark Ralston
AFP/Getty Images
A woman prays at a makeshift memorial for shooting victims at the Cielo Vista Mall Walmart, in El Paso, Texas.

EL PASO, Texas (KTEP) - Attorney Justin Underwood in a new court filing stated the family of a victim in the 2019 Walmart mass shooting has grown “terrified” of El Paso County District Attorney Yvonne Rosales, a prosecutor and a Vinton municipal judge.

Underwood, a private attorney, stated he made contact with the family of Alexander Gerhard Hoffman who was slain in the shooting three years ago after prosecutors said they could not reach them. Underwood was appointed to represent the family in the case by District Court Judge Sam Medrano on August 17.

His filing paints a troubling relationship between Hoffman’s family, the DA’s office and a Vinton municipal judge Rogelio “Roger” Rodriguez, who is not an employee of the DA’s office. The court document details various allegations against Rodriguez and the DA's office.

“The Hoffman’s have repeatedly told me that they are terrified of District Attorney Yvonne Rosales, Assistant District Attorney Curtis Cox and Roger Rodriguez,” Underwood’s filing states. “They informed me they have been continually victimized by Rodriguez who told them that he was acting on behalf of the District Attorney’s office.”

KTEP has reached out to Rodriguez and the DA’s Office for comment. Neither has answered questions about Rodriguez’s role in day-to-day activities.

It’s important to note, Judge Medrano has issued a ‘gag order’ on any discussion about the Walmart mass shooting case from individuals involved.

The report is the latest in a month’s long drama against the backdrop of one of the most gruesome crimes to happen in El Paso.

Patrick Crusius, the accused gunman, is charged with killing 23 shoppers and injuring just as many in the August 3, 2019 attack at a Walmart. He was 21-years-old when he drove from North Texas to carry out the mass shooting and told police he came to “stop the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

Alexander Gerhard Hoffman was one of the victims fatally shot in the attack. Rosa Maria Valdez Garcia, Alexander Whelm Hoffman, Thomas Hoffman Alvarez and Elise Hoffman-Taus are his listed family members.

Visa revoked

Among the list of allegations in Underwood’s court filing, one states Rodriguez warned the Hoffman’s not to attend a scheduled hearing on August 17. Rosa Maria Valdez Garcia, and her sons Thomas and Alexander live in Juarez.

“If you go back for anything regarding the hearing, Yvonne Rosales would not look kindly on it,” the report states. “She has people everywhere.”

Underwood states Valdez had freely crossed into the U.S. for hearings and meetings with a Sentri pass that allows for fluid crossings over the international bridge between the U.S. and Mexico.

But Underwood alleged DA Rosales and Rodriguez promised to grant Thomas and Alexander visas for crossing the border. And, allegedly, Thomas was promised to be able to take classes at Park University.

“Thomas Hoffman was also promised work by Roger Rodriguez,” the report states. “None of these promises were fulfilled.”

It’s unclear what the Hoffman’s were asked to do in exchange for visas.

On September 17, two days before another scheduled hearing in the case, the Hoffman’s were visited by individuals presenting themselves to be part of a Mexican Investigations team and were attempting to get them to sign documents, the report states.

Two days later, Valdez attempted to cross an international bridge when she was detained by Customs and Border Protection, according to the report. She was held in custody for seven hours and informed her Sentri Pass had been revoked, the court documents state.

KTEP has reached out to the U.S. CBP agency and U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar’s office for clarity on Underwood’s allegation.

Audio recordings

While Crusius remains under federal custody in the Downtown El Paso County Detention Facility, the state case has stalled. Court filings and arguments in hearings have been about the role of Rodriguez in the DA’s office and his involvement in the Walmart mass shooting case.

Last week, state Judge Sid Harle ruled Judge Medrano could continue overseeing the case after the DA’s office requested to remove him. A status hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday.

In Judge Harle’s court, Crusius’ attorneys questioned DA Yvonne Rosales about Rodriguez and whether he’d been involved in helping prosecute the case.

Rosales denied any involvement by Rodriguez in the case stating “he’s not an employee.” She also denied instructing Rodriguez to contact the Hoffman family.

But Underwood’s Thursday court filing starkly contrasts Rosales’ testimony. The Hoffman’s told Underwood Rosales had introduced Rodriguez as her acting representative and member of her staff, according to the report.

The court documents say Rodriguez consistently contacted Rosa Maria Valdez Garcia and Thomas Hoffman after a Walmart mass shooting case hearing in July on the DA’s behalf.

In a sworn affidavit, Thomas Hoffman says Rodriguez asked to meet the family at the Stanton House hotel in Downtown El Paso on August 3 after they’d taken flowers to a memorial at Ascarate Park. The next day, Rodriguez pressed the family about sending emails, Hoffman stated.

Underwood’s report alleges the Hoffman’s recorded several conversations with Rodriguez discussing the case. And, that the DA’s office was looking to attack political opponents and a journalist.

“The family informed that the DA’s office had a plan to attack Judge Medrano, Robert “Bob” Moore, Amanda Enriquez, and others,” Underwood states. “Thomas Hoffman informed me that Rodriguez stated that he always carried a weapon on his person and actually showed it to Thomas on occasion.”

According to the report, Valdez told Underwood Rodriguez allegedly threatened her not to “betray” him.

“As he stated, he had ‘snipers everywhere,” the report states.

Underwood states he turned over statements and audio recordings between the Hoffman family and Rodriguez to special agents with the FBI on August 29. The recordings are in Spanish and were translated into English for the court.

KTEP has reached out to the FBI for comment.

Underwood’s report also alleges Rodriguez instructed the Hoffman’s not to answer calls from the DA’s office, so prosecutors could represent to Medrano that they could not reach the family.

Origin of mystery email

It’s been months since El Paso media received an email attacking El Paso attorney Amanda Enriquez, a deputy public defender and potential candidate in the 2024 race for district attorney. The email accused Enriquez of “using the case for political purposes,” and threatened a complaint against her with the State Bar of Texas.

It also alleged complaints and a grievance were filed against judge Medrano because of events during a July 1 hearing. Judge Medrano sternly questioned DA Rosales about her statement to the media that the case would go to trial in the summer of 2023.

Underwood’s report states the email did come from Rosa Maria Valdez Garcia’s email account but it was authored by Rodriguez and his wife Anne Rodriguez on August 4, backing up a suspicion that Valdez or her son Thomas did not write it.

“Anne Rodriguez requested to use Thomas Hoffman’s cell phone to send the emails and he refused so Anne and Roger Rodriguez used Mrs. Valdez’ cell phone to send the emails,” the court documents states. “Mrs. Valdez had no knowledge of what the emails contained or where they were being sent.”

During the hearing before Sid Harle last week, former prosecutor John Briggs, who was a lead attorney in the Walmart case, testified he told a superior in the DA’s office that he believed Rodriguez was the author of the email on August 18.

Just a day later, Briggs was fired. DA Rosales contends Briggs was fired because of his performance as a lead prosecutor on the Walmart case and others.

Briggs testified that he’d been approached by Curtis Cox, a senior member of DA Rosales’ staff to sign an affidavit. The document stated Briggs had given misinformation to the Hoffman family, he testified.

The former prosecutor said Rodriguez was present for a private meeting with victims and families of victims of the shooting after the July 1 hearing in Medrano’s court. Rodriguez stoked the crowd and told them to file grievances against the judge.

And, Rodriguez stated he’d “recused a lot of other judges,” Briggs testified.

“I told him that I thought the emails read like they came from our office,” he said. “And, based on the content of those emails, Roger Rodriguez was the author of those emails.”

Related Stories