Crime

Targeting Abbott, Texas Democrats Flip the Script on Crime After Deadly Hospital Shootings in Dallas

Abbott has blamed Democrats for crime throughout the election season.
Abbott has blamed Democrats for crime throughout the election season. Jay Godwin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
For much of his reelection campaign, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has railed against challenger Beto O’Rourke and other Democrats for supposedly supporting policies that encourage crime.

Now, some Texas Democrats have flipped the script, arguing that Abbott bears responsibility for violent crime in the wake of a shooting that killed two at a Dallas hospital.

On Saturday, Nestor Hernandez, 30, allegedly killed nurse Jaqueline Pokuaa and social worker Katie Flowers at the Methodist Dallas Medical Center. Hernandez, out on parole for aggravated robbery at the time, was wearing a court-ordered ankle monitor.

Hernandez, who has several previous felony convictions, had gone to the hospital to visit his girlfriend after she delivered his child. There, he accused her of cheating, hit her in the head with his gun and eventually shot and killed Pokuaa and Flowers, according to police.

On Thursday, state Rep. Rafael Anchía, a Democrat from Dallas, called for an investigation into the decision by the governor-appointed Board of Pardons and Parole to release Hernandez.

Hernandez violated the conditions of his parole in March and June, Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia told local broadcaster WFAA. In one instance, he reportedly cut off his ankle monitor. Although he spent 100 days in jail, Hernandez was eventually released again.

Located in North Oak Cliff, the hospital sits in Texas House District 103, which Anchía represents.

Anchía called for the probe in a letter addressed to Board Chair David Gutierrez, state Auditor Lisa R. Collier and Rene Hinojosa, director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Parole Division.

In the letter, Anchía called for an “immediate investigation” into what he called the board’s “failure” to revoke Hernandez’s parole before the deadly shooting.

“It is my belief that the Board had wide discretion to revoke Mr. Hernandez’s release on parole but failed to do so despite multiple parole violations,” Anchía wrote, adding that the decisions taken by the board "led to the release of a dangerous criminal who murdered two members of our community.”

In a press release Thursday, Anchía took a sharper shot at the Republican governor. “Greg Abbott’s Board of Pardons and Paroles failed to revoke parole for a violent offender and, as a result, two people were killed and our community is now in mourning,” he said in the statement.

Throughout the midterm election season, Abbott has lashed out at Democrats over crime. During a debate with O’Rourke last month, he blamed the Democratic hopeful for supposedly supporting policies like “defunding the police,” a charge O’Rourke denies.

"The real big lie is any notion that Greg Abbott cares about crime as anything other than a campaign issue." – Matt Angle, Lone Star Project

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At publication time, the governor’s press team had not responded to the Observer’s request for comment on Anchía’s call for an investigation. The Board of Pardons and Paroles also declined to provide comment.

O'Rourke has also pinned the blame for crime on Abbott. "Violent crime has skyrocketed on Greg Abbott’s watch as he has made us less safe," he tweeted Thursday. "He failed Texas."

Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project, a group that backs Democrats in Texas, said Abbott's campaign focus on crime was only an electoral tactic.

"The real big lie is any notion that Greg Abbott cares about crime as anything other than a campaign issue," he said by email. "Abbott could care less about the dangers and death of violent crime. He sees it as a vehicle for votes."

Saying that the Dallas hospital shooting "horribly exposes both Greg Abbott's hypocrisy and failure to address violent crime," Angle added, "The parole system Abbott controls released a dangerous, unguarded criminal onto the public without warning anyone. Abbott's indifference and incompetence left two innocent Texans dead."

Earlier this week, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot put out a statement correcting inaccurate claims that his office had played a part in Hernandez's release.

Dallas Police Chief Garcia called Hernandez's release "an abhorrent failure of our criminal justice system."

As first reported by The Dallas Morning News Thursday, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, has opened an investigation into how Hernandez managed to obtain a gun despite being on parole and having prior felony convictions. 
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Patrick Strickland is the former news editor at the Dallas Observer. He's worked as a senior reporter at Al Jazeera English. His reporting has appeared in the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Politico EU and The New Republic, among others.

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