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Man Runs Down Customs Inspector

July 01, 2002

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Man Runs Down Customs Inspector

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by Alejandra Valdez, Del Rio News-Herald

A stolen Del Rio Police Department patrol car was used to run down a U.S. Customs Service officer at the Del Rio Port of Entry early Sunday morning.

Inspector Rick Rios, 37, an 11-year veteran of the U.S. Customs Service, was listed in serious, but stable condition in University Hospital in San Antonio this morning.

Rios was seriously injured when he was run over by a stolen Del Rio Police Department patrol car about 3:30 a.m. Sunday. Rios was injured as he was attempting to lay down spikes in the path of the stolen patrol car, after Del Rio police sought assistance from port officials in stopping the stolen car, according to a police department press release regarding the incident.

Police said the incident started when they responded to "an unknown call" at 618 W. 13th St. at 2:24 a.m. Sunday. Police said they had a report of someone "breaking glass" at the residence.

The officer who first responded to the call, Wesley Wilson, found Reymundo Avalos III, 28, in the vicinity of the residence, throwing rocks at its windows. Police Sunday said Avalos' estranged wife lives at that address.

Police were called to the same residence about half an hour later. This time, they arrested Avalos, whom they found within 1,000 feet of the residence. Avalos was arrested at 3:28 a.m. Sunday for violating a protective order.

The police department press release stated Avalos was handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a marked patrol unit. Wilson, who arrested Avalos, then stepped away from the vehicle to continue obtaining "details pertinent to the arrest."

Avalos took advantage of being left unsupervised.

"Avalos managed to circumvent his restraints and stole the patrol unit in an attempt to escape custody at 0330 hours. Officers initiated pursuit of Avalos and notified the port of entry of the pursuit in progress. . .Rios was attempting to lay down spikes in the path of the stolen patrol unit in an effort to stop him when the stolen unit struck him, causing grievous bodily injury to Rios and then continuing without stopping, into the Republic of Mexico," the police press release stated.

Police Lt. John Lissner, who was among the officers pursuing the stolen vehicle, said Sunday that Rios approached the patrol unit as it headed toward the International Bridge and Mexico.

Police and Customs officers at the scene Sunday said Rios was not aware that the stolen car he was attempting to stop was a Del Rio police car.

Lissner said that when Avalos saw Rios, he "floored it and intentionally" struck Rios, who was sent flying by the impact.

Avalos continued through the toll lane and raced toward Mexico.

Lissner and other police officers chased Avalos through the toll plaza and opened fire on the stolen patrol car as it reached the international bridge.

Six to ten shots were fired, but none struck Avalos, who kept driving toward Mexico. Avalos was detained by authorities in Ciudad Acuna and was released to U.S. authorities about 9:30 a.m. Sunday. After the stolen patrol unit was recovered, it was found to have been shot through the rear and side windows.

The International Bridge was closed until 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

Rios was stabilized at the Val Verde Regional Medical Center's emergency room before being transported to University Hospital in San Antonio by ambulance. En route, an Air Life helicopter was called to meet the ground ambulance in Hondo, and Rios was flown to the San Antonio hospital from there.

After Rios had been at the University ER for 45 minutes, an ER spokesperson, who could not comment on the severity of Rios' injuries and who did not wish to be identified, did say, "The one thing that will help this young man is prayers."

Rios' condition was listed as serious, but stable in the hospital's surgical intensive care unit this morning.

Rios is a canine handler for the U.S. Customs Service. Del Rio police officers who returned to the accident scene after breaking off their chase of Avalos, were doubly shocked to find that the victim of the hit-and-run was Rios, who had been a Del Rio police officer before going into the Customs Service.

"Rios was an outstanding officer during the time he worked with our department, and he continued to work with our department on many cases where we needed his services as a canine handler. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Rios' family at this time of need, and we wish him a speedy recovery," the police press release stated.

Avalos faces federal assault charges from the FBI and U.S. Customs Service and state charges including evading arrest, auto theft and possibly attempted murder from the Del Rio Police Department.

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