Crime in Review 2022
By Kyle Mooty
Crime rates rose drastically – according to FBI statistics — during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020-21, in the United States. Texas was certainly no stranger to trouble as homicides rose significantly in Austin, although the capital city is still only No. 7 as the Most Dangerous City in the state behind (1-6) Houston, San Antonio, Lubbock, Beaumont, Dallas, Mesquite).
Caldwell County had its share of those living on the wrong side of the law in the last 12 months.
Among the lowlights during 2022 included the following (in chronological order):
Still on the Lam
On April 29, at about 1:44 a.m., Caldwell County Deputies responded to the 5400 block FM 20 E. in Lockhart for an assault involving a handgun. Deputies spoke with the victim and were advised that the suspect fled from the residence in the victim’s car prior to law enforcement arrival.
Luis Benitez, 23, had a warrant issued for him for the offense of Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon against family. At about 7:18 a.m., Caldwell County Deputies responded back to the residence and were advised by the victim that Benitez had returned home. Deputies received information from another person on the property that the suspect was in the residence. Deputies surrounded the residence and attempted to call the suspect out and received no response. Hays County SWAT was requested to assist due to the nature of the offense. A search warrant was obtained and subsequentially executed at the residence with the assistance of Hays County SWAT. The suspect was not located in the residence. Information was later received that the suspect may have fled out of Caldwell County.
The warrant remains active and there was no update regarding Benitez’s whereabouts from the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office.
Dale Shooting Fatality
On May 8, at about 3:50 a.m., Caldwell County Deputies responded to the 100 block of Forister Ranch Drive in Dale for a report of an aggravated assault with a firearm. Deputies arrived on scene and located one male victim, unconscious, with a life threatening, gunshot wound. Deputies were able to rescue the male from the property and get him to safety and medical attention.
The victim, identified as Fabian Rocha, 41, died of his wounds the following day.
Several other persons were able to escape from the residence and property prior to law enforcement arrival. Deputies were advised that the suspect, Miguel Barrientos-Gallegos, 49, was still inside of the residence. Barrientos-Gallegos was reported to be an ex-boyfriend of one of the victims. The Hays County SWAT team was contacted to assist with the execution of a search warrant. The suspect was not located in the residence and is currently at large. Barrientos-Gallegos is to be considered armed and dangerous. If seen, we urge you to call 911.
Warrants have been obtained for the offenses of Murder and Aggravated Kidnapping.
Barrientos-Gallegos is a known sex offender with a violent criminal history. He is still being sought.
On March 27, the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office became aware of a potential Kidnapping and/or hostage situation on Green Acre Drive in Dale. Multiple assets were activated to assist, including Texas Rangers, Hays County SWAT, Hays County Negotiators, and the FBI Task Force.
A search warrant was obtained for the residence and was subsequentially executed by Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office Detectives with the assistance of Hays County SWAT. Four victims were removed from the residence and refused medical treatment on scene. Four people were arrested from the residence and taken into custody at the Caldwell County Jail.
Those arrested included Genaro Carranza-Romero, Nallely Cruz-Valeriano, Emmanuel Miguel-Rosas, and Rosendo Miguel-Rosas.
The Lockhart Police Department arrested a 16-year-old male on Sept. 1 and three female juveniles between the ages of 15 and 16 the following week in connection to a threat written at a girls’ bathroom at Lockhart High School. The threat was also circulated on social media.
A 12-year-old female was arrested on Sept. 9 following a threatening note being found in the girls’ restroom at Lockhart Junior High School.
Investigators said the girl confessed to the crime.
Four Arrested Following Daycare Incident
Four individuals were arrested following an investigation into an alleged sexual assault of a 3-year-old girl on Sept. 1 at Connie’s Kidz, a Lockhart daycare.
Among those arrested were three adults and a 13-year-old male.
Largest Ever Meth Bust in County
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office and the Hays County SWAT conducted an operation on Dec. 8 in cooperation with Texas Department of Public Safety and the Bastrop County Sheriff’s office, at a residence in rural Caldwell County where the sole occupant of the dwelling was arrested after the largest seizure of methamphetamine in the history of Caldwell County was discovered.
Authorities arrested a Hispanic male individual who is being placed into federal custody, facing federal charges of possession of Methamphetamine exceeding 130 kilos (roughly 286 pounds), 75 liters of liquid methamphetamine, 8 kilos of marijuana, a large sum of cash, along with several firearms, one of which was determined to have been reported stolen out of Williamson County.