Alejo Quintanilla, 1922

Alejo Quintanilla, Died in Police Custody in Hidalgo County, 1922

In July 1922, Tom Casey accused his employee Alejo Quintanilla of harassing his daughter. At Casey’s request, Sam Bernard, Edinburg Deputy Sheriff, traveled with Walter Weaver and two other civilians to arrest Quintanilla. Witnesses last saw Quintanilla in police custody, but he never arrived at the Hidalgo County jail. Three days later, around noon on July 18, 1922, Quintanilla’s corpse was found near the side of the road, three miles outside of Edinburg. Enrique Ruiz, the Mexican Consul General in San Antonio, opened an investigation into the murder of Quintanilla, who was a Mexican national. The investigation found that Deputy Sheriff Bernard and Walter Weaver, a civilian, had murdered Quintanilla. The public prosecutor conducted investigations and submitted the case to the Grand Jury of Hidalgo County, but the Grand Jury deferred it from 1922 to 1923, and from 1923 to 1924, and never heard the case against Bernard or Weaver.

For Mexican nationals, when Texas courts failed to prosecute assailants, they were sometimes able to seek international avenues for justice. Francisco and María Inéz Peréz de Quintanilla, father and mother of Alejo Quintanilla, filed a claim through the U.S.-Mexico General Claims Commission of 1923. The claim charged the U.S. with denial of justice, direct responsibility for acts of minor officials, death during custody, failure to apprehend or punish, and measure of damages for wrongful death of their son, who they alleged died in the custody of local police in Edinburg in 1922. In 1926, the commission found that under international law, when a government takes prisoners, hostages, or interned soldiers into custody it is responsible and obligated to account for them. They found that the U.S. government was obligated to pay $2,000 to the Mexican government on behalf of Quintanilla’s parents.