Three teenage boys could be facing capital murder charges in Texas and the case is seemingly a sad reminder of the lack of trust communities of color have for the police. Alejandro Trevino, 18, Christian Trevino, 17, and their friend, Juan Eduardo Melendez, 18, were arrested on suspicion of beating the brothers’s stepfather, Gabriel Quintanilla, 42, to death in McAllen, Texas. Alejandro, the older brother, faces aggravated assault and engaging in organized criminal activity charges while his brother Christian, and their friend, Juan, are facing capital murder and aggravated assault charges.
The trio reportedly became enraged after their 9-year-old half sister accused Quintanilla of sexually abusing her. According to police records, the two brothers confronted Quintanilla at his home in a trailer park where the three men were involved in a fight. Quintanilla then left on foot. Police records state the brothers and their friend, Melendez, all confronted Quintanilla a second time at an apartment complex. A third assault then occurs after the three teens changed vehicles and saw Quintanilla walking alone. According to police, Quintanilla was severely beaten with brass knuckles and suffered severe head trauma. Their stepfather’s body was found in a field by a farmer in McAllen.
While on paper it may look like this case has connected all the dots (victim, suspect, motive), there are multiple tragedies and multiple victims. Most eminently, there is a 9-year-old girl who will now not only live with the trauma of the sexual assault, but with the possible guilt of having said anything to begin with.Yet, Quintanilla’s, the brother’s and their sister’s fate could’ve been prevented. Quintanilla had an arrest warrant in an unrelated case for continuous sexual assault of a child and assault family violence, CNN reported. However, Pharr police couldn’t locate Quintanilla despite several attempts to do so.
But beyond the protocol that needed to be followed to prevent not only the alleged murder but also the sexual assault, is the brothers’ handling of the matter. If calling the police was an option, it wasn’t the decision they made. In reality, most people of color don’t feel safe calling the police. Aside from the numerous killings of innocent Black and brown men and women at the hands of police, Black and brown communities are often discriminated against by police.
A quick summary of what 2019-2020 studies have revealed:
- Black men are about 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police (National Academy of Sciences)
- Black women are 1.4 more times likely to be killed than white women and Latino men were 1.3 to 1.4 times more likely to be killed than white men (National Academy of Sciences)
- During LA traffic stops, 24 percent of Black drivers and passengers were searched, compared with 16 percent of Latinos and 5 percent of whites, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times
- Black and Latino drivers are more likely to be searched for contraband — even though white drivers are more likely to be found with contraband, according to the LA Times
- Civilian police contact has been linked to more trauma and anxiety symptoms tied to police stops, the intrusiveness of the encounters, and their perceptions of police fairness
- In NY, Black and Latino people made up more than 80 percent of the stops, despite making up just over half the city population, according to NYCLU
The Trevino case is complex and layered but it sparked the question of why didn’t they go to the police? We don’t have the answers but considering Quintanilla had an alleged past of assaulting a child, it feels like more could’ve be done. The case is reminiscent of the tragic story of Gabriel Fernandez in the sense that it feels like a system that failed to protect an abused child. In that instance, Gabriel was the victim and this time the alleged perpetrator was killed but in both cases more could’ve been done by the system.
On top of how unsafe our communities already feel with the police, immigration status adds another layer of concern and fear of them. If the justice system has proven to fail us, who do we call? Who do we feel safe with?
A Change.org petition seeking justice for the trio has more than 240K signatures and is seeking 300k.