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Body cam footage of RGV activist's arrest in connection to mural graffiti released

A Brownsville mural, commissioned using Elon Musk Foundation money and completed last year, is shown with anti-SpaceX graffiti. The graffiti has since been removed.
Trey Mendez's Facebook Page
A Brownsville mural, commissioned using Elon Musk Foundation money and completed last year, is shown with anti-SpaceX graffiti. The graffiti has since been removed.

The Brownsville Police Department has provided body camera footage of activist Rebekah Hinojosa’s controversial arrest last month to Texas Public Radio following a public information request.

Brownsville police officers arrested Hinojosa on Feb. 16, two days after a city worker reported graffiti on the Capitol Theater mural in downtown Brownsville. Hinojosa was charged for the incident–according to Brownsville Police Department–using security camera footage from a stoplight on the intersection of 11th and Levee streets. The graffiti read, "Gentrified, Stop SpaceX."

The body camera video shows Hinojosa arrested by four officers — three of whom were not in uniform — at her apartment in Brownsville. After the officers repeatedly knock on the door and windows of Hinojosa’s apartment, she answers the door. After the officers tell her she needs to come with them, Hinojosa repeatedly asks to be shown an arrest warrant.

“I’ll get the warrant, don’t worry about it,” one officer says, as he pushes Hinojosa’s apartment door open.

After the officers ask for Hinojosa to put her hands behind her back, she again asks to see the warrant. “Ma’am, you only have one charge, you don’t want an extra one,” the officer wearing the body camera, who is identified as H. Gonzalez in a police report, says.

Hinojosa asks if she can get dressed — she was wearing pajamas at the time of her arrest — then asks why she’s being arrested.

The officer who pushed Hinojosa’s door open tells her, “Criminal mischief. You know why, graffiti. You know why.”

The same officer then says, after Hinojosa pleads to get dressed, “We don’t have time for you to get dressed.” Officer Gonzalez then accuses Hinojosa of resisting arrest, saying she is pulling away from him.

“You know what, let’s go. We’re not going to be playing around,” Gonzalez says as he leads Hinojosa out of her apartment. “I’m not going to tell you again not to resist, you understand that?” Hinojosa doesn’t appear to be moving away from the officer at any point he claims it is occurring.

Gonzalez then silently drives Hinojosa to Brownsville City Jail. Hinojosa does not speak. The body camera is switched off once Hinojosa passes through the booking area of the jail.

Hinojosa stayed 26 hours inside the jail before being bailed out. Officers inside the jail took her prescription glasses and interrogated her on her activism concerning SpaceX. Hinojosa says she didn’t sleep through the ordeal, complaining of headaches and the jail’s cold temperatures.

“I have PTSD from this now, and a lot of emotional distress I’m trying to process, from all of this,” Hinojosa told TPR in a previous interview shortly after her release from jail.

Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez posted Hinojosa’s arrest on his city Facebook page, mentioning her employment with the Sierra Club and previous activism against SpaceX. Mendez later edited the post removing Hinojosa’s activism work and occupation. Members of the public accused Mendez of singling out Hinojosa for her work against SpaceX.

Activists and community members called on Brownsville PD to drop the charges against Hinojosa and for Mendez to issue an apology. In a subsequent post, Mendez said he ordered an investigation into Hinojosa’s arrest, but indicated the charges would still be pursued.

Hinojosa’s attorneys are asking the city to drop the charge, a Class B, cite-and-release misdemeanor. According to Hinojosa’s arrest affidavit, the property damage from the graffiti amounted to $300.

The $20,000 mural was paid for using money from the Elon Musk Foundation, the SpaceX CEO's philanthropic arm.

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.

Gaige Davila is the Border and Immigration Reporter for Texas Public Radio.