Travis County sheriff's detectives believe there might be people with information about three unsolved killings this year who are reluctant to come forward because of their immigration status.
"We can't say for certain one way or the other, but we can't rule it out either," sheriff's spokeswoman Kristen Dark said about why tipsters have not come forward. It's unusual that more people have not contacted detectives to share what they know, she said.
The three victims, all of them fathers, were killed in separate shootings this year. All of them have ties to the city's Spanish-speaking community, officials said.
During a town hall meeting Wednesday, sheriff's Capt. Craig Smith urged anyone with information about the cases to get in touch with them, stressing that it is not the sheriff's office's practice to ask whether someone is an unauthorized immigrant.
“When it comes to solving crimes, we're not concerned about immigration status," Smith said.
A $1,000 reward is available for anyone with information that leads to an arrest in any of these cases. Tipsters can remain anonymous.
One of the shootings happened July 11 in the 9800 block of Blocker Lane, a couple miles south of Circuit of the Americas. Johnny Cardenas, 31, was found wrapped in a blanket on the side of the road with a single gunshot wound in his head, detectives said. He lived with his girlfriend at the mobile home park across the street where his body was found. Detectives later found blood in several locations inside his home.
"It was clear that there had been an attempt to clean up the crime scene," Smith said. Detectives are waiting on lab results that may tie DNA found at the scene to the shooter, sheriff's Detective Ronnie Hawkins said.
Investigators found a bullet in one of the mobile home's walls, and the blanket he was wrapped in came from his home, Smith said.
Cardenas' mother, Elizabeth Ramirez, attended the town hall meeting, tearing up as she spoke with detectives afterward.
"I just want justice for Johnny," said Ramirez, who is helping care for Cardenas' 17-month-old daughter. "If someone saw something, even if they think it's nothing and not worth sharing, it is."
Detectives also discussed the unsolved killing of 39-year-old Pedro Gomez, who was found shot to death Jan. 31 in his vehicle on William Harrison Street, near Manor.
Gomez had just returned from his shift at Goodwill, and his truck was still running when his wife found him with multiple gunshot wounds, Smith said. Gomez was a father of three.
The most recent unsolved homicide happened July 20, when deputies found 32-year-old Juan Carlos Gomez Del Angel with a single gunshot wound in the 9300 block of FM 969, not far from Decker Lane.
Detectives discovered video that showed someone in a silver car traveling behind Gomez Del Angel before he was shot, and witnesses said they saw a white or silver car speeding away from the scene after the shooting, Smith said.
Gomez Del Angel had a wife and child, Smith said.
Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez also spoke at the town hall meeting, urging anyone with information to come forward. Hernandez told the crowd that her brother-in-law was shot and killed in an unsolved homicide.
"We're not concerned about (immigration) status, we're concerned about community safety," Hernandez said. "We need for you to trust us, and we need for you to come forward. ... Let's solve these crimes. Let's bring justice and closure to these families."
A representative with the Mexican consulate also attended the meeting and said consular representatives would be available to receive tips if people did not feel comfortable coming forward to law enforcement.
"We want law enforcement to link in a positive way with the immigrant community," said Félix Herrera Herrera, consul for protection and legal affairs.