A Family Sought Revenge Against a Tormentor. They Shot the Wrong Man, Police Say.
Members of a family in Texas who were being harassed have been charged with murder in what a sheriff called “a tragic case of mistaken” identity.,
Luis and Florinda Argueta were fed up, according to court documents.
Their son, Joe Argueta, 19, had been feuding with another teenager and his friends who had been harassing the family for weeks, slashing their car tires and shooting at their house in Houston, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and a lawyer for the younger Mr. Argueta said.
Florinda Argueta, 39, hatched a plan: The family would stay up all night, wait for the teenager and his friends and “deal with them,” according to a report filed by a Harris County prosecutor.
Late on Monday night, Ms. Argueta’s brother, Margarito Alcantar, waited near the end of a street in an SUV, prosecutors said.
At around 11:30 p.m., a dark-colored Dodge that the family believed belonged to one of their harassers pulled up near the Arguetas’ house and the family pounced, the report said. The SUV blocked the Dodge from one side and Ms. Argueta pulled up behind it in her Honda sedan.
When the driver of the Dodge tried to flee through a yard, Luis and Joe Argueta and Mr. Alcantar began chasing the car on foot. The younger Mr. Argueta held a bat and his father wielded a gun, according to the report.
The driver, Eddie Reece Clark III, 29, was shot in the torso and pronounced dead at a hospital.
He had never even met the family before that night, according to law enforcement officials.
“Seems like a tragic case” of mistaken identity, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez of Harris County said on Facebook. “Now, four are charged in murder.”
The prosecutor’s report said that “all four defendants actively participated in the plan to chase” Mr. Clark down a public road, block his path, then assault him with a bat and a gun.
“Eddie Reece Clark III was a neighbor that lived on an adjoining street and was merely driving home when he was accosted by the defendants,” the report said.
Mr. Clark’s family declined to comment. Joe Argueta was released from jail after he posted $50,000 bond on Wednesday. His mother was released on $20,000 bond.
The police said they were still looking for Luis Argueta, 45, and Mr. Alcantar, 29. Ms. Argueta declined to give the police contact information for her brother and said she did not know where her husband had fled, prosecutors said.
Ms. Argueta’s lawyer, Christopher Sharkey, declined to comment.
David Bires, a lawyer for Joe Argueta, described the teenager as an electrician’s apprentice who had to quit working in April after he had knee surgery. Joe Argueta has no prior criminal history, Mr. Bires said.
“He didn’t shoot anybody,” Mr. Bires said. “He is not guilty of murder.”
He said that the Argueta family “had been harassed mercilessly over the last few weeks.”
The feud appeared to be between the younger Mr. Argueta and the new boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend.
“Complaints had been made to the police,” Mr. Bires said. “No action was taken.”
Deputies had come to the Arguetas’ home seven times in the past three weeks, Sgt. Ben Bell, a member of the Sheriff’s Office homicide unit, told reporters after the shooting.
Someone had shot at their house at least twice and tires had been slashed in the driveway, Sergeant Bell said. “It was an ongoing disturbance,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Office referred questions about the complaints to the Precinct 4 Constable’s Office, a local police agency. A spokeswoman at the office said the Sheriff’s Office would have been in charge of investigating the Arguetas’ complaints.
Sheriff Gonzalez said the Arguetas believed that the man harassing them drove a black Dodge Charger. Mr. Clark was driving a dark gray Dodge Challenger.
After he was shot, Mr. Clark crashed his car into a tree and tried to run away but soon collapsed on the ground.
The mother and son gave conflicting versions of what happened next.
According to the prosecutor’s report, Ms. Argueta approached Mr. Clark as he was on the ground, tapped him with a bat and asked “Who sent you?”
The younger Mr. Argueta initially told investigators that he had shot at the car but later said that it was his father who fired the weapon, according to the report. He told the police that he, his father and his uncle caught up with Mr. Clark after he collapsed on the ground.
Joe Argueta said he asked Mr. Clark who had sent him. “I didn’t do anything to you,” Mr. Clark replied, according to the prosecutor’s report.
When the police arrived, they found Mr. Clark on the ground, still alive. He was flown to a Houston hospital and died two hours later.