Justice for border agent’s family

LaFERIA — There’s no more waiting for the Vega family.

After more than two years, the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega Jr. while he was fishing with relatives has been reclassified as a death in the line of duty.

Vega’s family had requested the change in order to receive survivor benefits and so the government could acknowledge his sacrifice even while off-duty.

The agent and his family were fishing in Willacy County near Santa Monica on Aug. 3, 2014, when officials say two Mexican nationals shot Vega, who was off-duty, and his father after trying to rob them.

His mother Marie Vega is grateful for the ruling.

“We’re very happy. He’s finally getting the respect and recognition he so rightfully deserves,” she said. “We’re so grateful to everyone who helped us.”

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, asked U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske to reclassify the death as the result of a shooting in the line of duty.

Since last year, Cornyn and Vela have requested the agency to reclassify Vega’s death, a move that would allow his family to receive survivor benefits earned through service to his country.

“It’s almost as if we’ve been slapped in the face and punched in the stomach,” Marie Vega said last week. “It’s not about the benefits. My son was very committed to his job and to his country. It’s disrespect to him.”

“I would like to thank Senator John Cornyn for joining with me to deliver justice to the family of Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega and I commend CBP and the Department of Homeland Security for classifying his death as being in the line of duty,” Vela stated. “Today’s announcement honors Agent Vega’s work, commitment and service to his country. I hope that today’s decision brings some measure of comfort to his family, his friends and his fellow agents.”

On the day he was shot, Vega and his father had been fishing with family members in the Santa Monica area off FM 1420 about 3.5 miles east of the north levee, Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence said at the time.

Javier Vega Sr. was shot in the lower back and was released from a hospital about two days later.

Gustavo Tijerina-Sandoval and Ismael Hernandez-Vallejo await trial on charges of capital murder and attempted capital murder.

Tijerina-Sandoval’s arrest helped Cameron County authorities crack down on a string of armed robberies at remote fishing spots in the Rio Hondo area, officials said.

In August 2014, a Cameron County judge arraigned Tijerina-Sandoval on seven counts of aggravated armed robbery and three counts of engaging in organized criminal activity, Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said at the time.

Cornyn and Vela continued to request Kerlikowske to reclassify Vega’s death because he “was a hero who upheld his oath to protect and serve even while off-duty.”