Police say they connected a 31-year-old Donna man to the Nov. 14 death of a Brownsville-based musician in downtown McAllen through a social media video and distinct drug packaging.
Authorities responded to the Old Beer House at 1:03 a.m. that morning for a report of four men who were found unresponsive. One of the men, 29-year-old Alamo resident Sergio Sanchez, died at 1:56 a.m., less than an hour after police responded, according to a probable cause affidavit for Jose Raquel Lerma’s Friday arrest on a charge of criminal negligent homicide.
Sanchez played trombone for Brownsville’s Banda La Nueva Generación de Chuy Hernandez.
“Upon officers arriving at location they learned it appeared that four of the males were consuming narcotics in a men’s bathroom stall. While processing the scene and rendering aid to the subjects officers located cocaine wrapped in distinctive and unique packaging on two of the four males,” the affidavit states.
McAllen police arrested 28-year-old San Juan resident Victor Manuel Soto and 27-year-old McAllen resident Jose Eduardo Paredes Franco last week after they were released from the hospital and charged them with possession of a controlled substance.
“One of the males was located by the bar area and the other (sic) inside the restroom,” an affidavit for Soto’s arrest states.
Another man, who hasn’t been identified, was also taken to the hospital. His current status isn’t immediately clear.
On Nov. 16, DEA ClanLab certified agents tested the cocaine, which revealed a positive result for fentanyl, a known cutting agent for cocaine, according to police.
The affidavit for Soto’s arrest alleges he had 1.76 grams of fentanyl while Paredes had 1.08 grams of the powerful narcotic.
The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office’s Special Operations Division and SWAT team also executed a search warrant on Nov. 16 in the 500 block of San Antonio Circle in Alamo resulting in Lerma’s arrest.
The sheriff’s office charged him with engaging in organized criminal activity, possession of marijuana, evading arrest and two counts of delivering a controlled substance.
Court records indicated he had bailed out on Nov. 19 but was immediately arrested on a motion to revoke his probation, which was filed after his arrest, for an aggravated assault conviction in 2019. McAllen police then charged him that same day with criminal negligent homicide.
After the raid, sheriff’s investigators reported to McAllen police that they discovered narcotics with the same distinct packaging found on the men at the Old Beer House the night Sanchez died.
“Sheriff’s Investigators advised they had seized several bags of narcotics with the same distinctive packaging that was found on the unresponsive males early Saturday morning,” the affidavit states.
The DEA tested these drugs, which revealed a positive result for fentanyl.
The sheriff’s office also notified McAllen police of a video on social media that places Lerma at the Old Beer House on the night of the overdoses.
“I reviewed the video and it showed Jose Lerma AKA ‘Pelon’ at the ‘Old Beer House’ interacting with the males who were later found unresponsive specifically Sergio Sanchez (deceased male) prior to officers arriving on scene. In the video it shows Sergio Sanchez to be in good health,” the affidavit states.
A video showing the men slumped over in the bathroom and another video showing a McAllen police officer providing first aid on another man in the bar area circulated on social media. It’s not immediately clear how many videos from that night were shared via social media accounts.
The video mentioned in the affidavit and the distinct drug packaging caused an investigator to conclude Lerma provided the drugs that killed Sanchez.
“As the result of the investigation it’s my belief that Jose Lerma AKA ‘Pelon’ provided the cocaine/fentanyl mixture that were consumed by the four unresponsive males and resulted in the death of Sergio Sanchez,” the affidavit states.
Lerma remains jailed on a total of $168,000 in bonds, records show.