Things That Matter

Hiker Ronald Sanchez Jr. Identified As Victim In Fatal Machete Attack On Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail stretches 2,190 miles from the red Georgia clay trail through the wooded trails of Maine. The people who quit their jobs and carry everything they need to sleep and survive outside for four to six months are called “thru-hikers” and they meet and create trail families along the way.

So when news broke that on Friday, May 10, one thru-hiker was murdered and another critically injured from an attack by a man wielding a machete, the community was rocked. Authorities just released the name of the victim as Ronald Sanchez Jr.

Ronald “Stronghold” Sanchez, Jr., 43, survived several deployments in Iraq and was using the Appalachian Trail as a form of outdoor therapy.

@SummitCreekShop / Twitter

Sanchez returned from war with depression and PTSD. He was in a cycling group, a boat racing team and showed horses–all as a means of trying to get out of his comfort zone and treat his depression.

A Veteran Affairs’ doctor planned to track and report on Sanchez’ recovery along the AT.

@themailboxes / Instagram

Sanchez’s sister, Brenda Sanchez Loera, told CNN in a phone interview that “He was adventurous and he got out of his shell and we were so proud of that because for a while he was in darkness.”

Massachusetts man James L. Jordan, 30, was arrested for murder and assault with intent to commit murder.

@ArrestsMugshots / Twitter

The court documents include witness reports from three surviving hikers who said Jordan was “disturbed and unstable, and was playing his guitar and singing.” Jordan began threatening the hikers, including Sanchez, telling them he would pour gasoline on their tents and burn them to death. The group decided to relocate for fear of their lives and started packing up.

Jordan started threatening them with a knife and two of the hikers ran north to escape.

@cnnbrk / Twitter

After Jordan gave up the chase, he returned to the campsite and started yelling at Sanchez and an unidentified female hiker. Sanchez and Jordan entered into a verbal altercation, at which point Sanchez made an emergency call from his cell phone.

That’s when Jordan started stabbing Sanchez repeatedly in the chest.

@boston_informer / Twitter

According to the unidentified female hiker’s witness testimony, when she saw Sanchez collapse to the ground, she started running. Jordan caught up to her and she raised her arms “as if to surrender,” and Jordan began stabbing her.

The second victim had to play dead to survive the attack.

@dc4visitors1 / Twitter

After Jordan presumed her dead, he went back to the campsite, and the female hiker continued running down the trail where she met two hikers off the trail who had just set up camp. They escorted her six miles to a trailhead where they called 911. The hiker is recovering from her injuries at a medical center in Bristol, Tennessee.

Jordan gave himself the trail nickname “Sovereign.”

Sheriff Mike Hensley had the suspect in custody weeks before the murder.

@cbcasithappens / Instagram

In a CBC interview, Hensley reveals that, “On April the 21st of this year, we started receiving calls that there was an individual on the Appalachian Trail threatening people with a machete.” Deputies had been deployed to find him but with no warrants, they let him go. He was later arrested after giving a fake ID to police and for possession of drugs. The hikers that had encountered and reported him refused to press charges against him and he was released on probation.

As hikers discover that the person they hiked with for a day, an afternoon, or a meal, they’re posting tributes.

@julieleavesatrace / Instagram

“Today I found out who was attacked and killed on the AT in Virginia and I’m completely shaken. When we hiked with him right before Hampton, TN I thought he was a badass cause he had two knee braces and it was hard for even baskets to keep up with him,” julieleavesatrace wrote on Instagram. “He said he was doing shorter miles because he was easing into recovery with his knees. But he did those shorter miles so fast! We ate with him at the shelter before Hampton where he decided to stay for the night. There was a graffiti board there and I remember Drawing a huge heart on it. RIP Stronghold. I know for sure if you were still here you would’ve made it to Katahdin. ❤️”

Hikers are now searching for ways to honor his memory.

@tlbrown2012 / Instagram

One user wanted to carry something of his to the end of the trail in his honor. Another wants to build a shelter in his memory. The annual celebratory “Trail Days” taking place in Damascus, Virginia–where Sanchez would likely be celebrating the halfway point of the trail–is holding a ceremony in his memory.

Jordan has been seen before a judge and is being held in jail pending psychiatric evaluation and trial.

READ: Venezuelan Charged With Murdering 24-Year-Old Valerie Reyes Who Was Found Dead In A Suitcase

One Day After A Texas Sheriff Called Undocumented Immigrants ‘Drunks,’ His Son Is Arrested For Public Intoxication

Things That Matter

One Day After A Texas Sheriff Called Undocumented Immigrants ‘Drunks,’ His Son Is Arrested For Public Intoxication

A Texas sheriff is eating his words after his bigotted comments came back to bite him in the worst way.

A day after Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn referred to undocumented immigrants as “drunks” who would “run over” children, his own son was reportedly arrested on charges of public intoxication. It has also been revealed that his son Sergei Waybourn has been arrested before. In 2018 he was charged with assault and in recent years he was arrested for trespassing and theft.

Sheriff Waybourn’s comments sparked controversy when he spoke against undocumented immigrants at a press conference in Washington.

Last Thursday, the sheriff spoke at the conference alongside Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew Albence. Speaking in response to a ruling by a federal California judge made last month that imposed restrictions on ICE’s use of “detainers,” Waybourn underlined the consequences of releasing illegal immigrants with DWI and other crimes.

U.S. District Judge André Birotte Jr.’s decision barred ICE from using online database searches to find and detain people based. Recently, the ACLU stated that since 2008, 2 million US citizens have been illegally detained because of such searches.

Waybourn pointed to his charge of inmates to give examples of high rates of repeat offenders. “If we have to turn them loose or they get released, they’re coming back to your neighborhood and my neighborhood,” Waybourn said according to New York Post. “These drunks will run over your children, and they will run over my children.”

After his comments, the national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens called for Waybourn’s resignation.

According to Dallas Morning News, Domingo Garcia said Waybourn ought to “resign and apologize for his bigoted comments immediately.”

In response, Waybourne said his comments had been taken out of contexts and his office released a statement saying that “Sheriff Waybourn was not referring to all legal or illegal immigrants when making his comments about DWI/DWI repeat offenders. He was speaking toward the charges of DWI and DWI repeat offender in the context of illegal immigration.”

In response to the news of his son’s arrest, the sheriff said he is “deeply saddened by Sergei’s choices.”

According to WFAA, he said that “It has been many years since he disassociated from our family. We, along with many family members have made efforts over the years to help him – all to no avail. It is always sad when drugs take control of a person’s life. His choices and actions have lead to this situation.”

Senior Border Patrol Officer Gets To Retire After Allegedly Kidnapping And Sexually Assaulting Another Agent

Things That Matter

Senior Border Patrol Officer Gets To Retire After Allegedly Kidnapping And Sexually Assaulting Another Agent

customsborder / Instagram

On July 10, former senior Border Patrol agent Gus Zamora, 51, was arrested in Tuscon for sexually assaulting a junior agent. Zamora’s wife is Gloria Chavez, one of the agency’s highest-ranked female officers. Three weeks after he was indicted by a Pima County grand jury, the agency took the only action it has thus far: it allowed him to retire from the agency three weeks after being arrested. Customs and Border Protection defended its actions by telling The New York Times, it “holds its employees accountable and expects the entire workforce to adhere to the agency’s standards of conduct.” Zamora attended a pretrial hearing at the Arizona Superior Court in Tucson. He pleaded not guilty.

The victim, identified as R.W. in court documents, told police that she looked up to Zamora as a mentor, given their ten-year age difference and his seniority. Over the years, R.W. had ignored some of his advances, asserting her desire to remain friends. The night of the assault, they met up for dinner and Zamora bought her so many tequila shots, video surveillance shows her falling to her knees as Zamora brought her back to his hotel room where he would later sexually assault her.

Before their dinner, Zamora texted her to ask if she “dressed up” for him, according to The New York Times.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

According to The New York Times, Zamora bought them five rounds of tequila shots, and at one point, she moved away from him after he placed his hand on her left thigh. The Daily Mail reports that Zamora told investigators that he offered R.W. a ride home, to which she declined, saying she didn’t want to be alone. Zamora alleges that she initiated the sex. However, hotel surveillance footage shows Zamora holding R.W. up. At one point, she fell to her knees, according to police documents obtained by The New York Times. 

Those police documents detail how R.W. said she blacked out, only waking up a few times to find herself on the bed. She told police she didn’t feel like she had the capacity to give consent. The rape kit results have not been made public. 

A few days later, R.W. reported the crime to the police, who then recorded her follow-up call to Zamora.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

According to The New York Times, the detective on the case recorded a phone call during which R.W. informed Zamora that the sex was non-consensual. The detective wrote, “he told her to not go there and that it wasn’t like that,” that sex “was never on his mind. They had too many shots,” The New York Times reports. Effectively, Zamora tried to call him out and he just deflected the blame onto both of them. 

When Zamora was eventually called in for an interview, a detective told Zamora that R.W. was in no state to offer consent, to which he “said that he knows, but he wasn’t in a state to consent either,” according to The New York Times

Women make up 5 percent of Border Patrol agents.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

The female agents who do make up the force have voiced their outrage at the agency’s inaction around sexual assault accusations. “There’s not a single woman in the Border Patrol who has either not been sexually assaulted, outright raped or at the very least sexually harassed,” former Border Patrol agent Jenn Budd told The New York Times. Budd’s since become an immigrant rights activist, and urges women to reconsider joining the Border Patrol.

Two days before Zamora allegedly assaulted R.W., Tucson police arrested Border Patrol agent Steven Charles Holmes, 33, for sexually assaulting three women over seven years. 

The agency is already under immense criticism for its high rate of arrest charges brought against Border Patrol agents when compared to other law enforcement agencies.

Credit: @CBP / Twitter

In July 2019, Quartz reported that Border Patrol agents are arrested approximately five times as often as other law enforcement groups. With a budget of over $15 billion and over 60,000 employees, it’s the largest law enforcement agency in the United States. Many critics say the agency is not held to account for its unconstitutional means of coercing migrants to sign removal forms written in English, a language they often cannot understand. 

A Customs Border Patrol spokesperson told El Paso Times that its Office of Professional Responsibility “will review all the facts uncovered to ensure all allegations of misconduct … are thoroughly investigated for appropriate action by the agency.”

READ: US Border Patrol Sent This Man And His Child Back To Mexico And Hours Later They Were Thrown Into Trucks And Abducted