Family of shooting suspect questions investigation

Investigators outside Ernesto Toral Norton’s home on Sept. 22, a day after he was shot and killed. Photo by Gaige Davila.

By Gaige Davila 

“Lupe” Garcia.

After Guadalupe “Lupe” Ramon Fonseca Garcia was arrested for the shooting death of Ernesto Toral Norton on Sept. 22, his family claims the investigation was rushed and that basic facts given to the news media were false.

“They need to get all the story right from the beginning,” Jorge Martinez, Garcia’s brother, told the PRESS. “Not just to come out in the news and make up lies.” 

When Garcia was arrested, Port Isabel Police Department (PIPD) Chief Robert Lopez told the PRESS that PIPD believed Garcia had relatives, friends or contacts in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, and was from Veracruz, Mexico. Martinez said this wasn’t true. 

“He didn’t have anywhere to go,” Martinez said. “He’s been here since he was, I believe, 13 or 14 years old. He went to school here. So, going to Mexico, I don’t think that was even on his mind.”

“Lupe” Garcia during his arraignment for first-degree murder on Sept. 23. Photo by Gaige Davila.

Martinez and Garcia are from Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas, Mexico, he said, and don’t know anyone in Reynosa. Lopez said PIPD was following leads the department was given that said Garcia was from Veracruz and that he had family or friends in Reynosa. Lopez did not specify where these leads came from, only that they were called into the tipline or received from “Intel,”  and that they were releasing information as they received it.

Regarding the shooting itself, investigators have offered little comment on what happened inside Norton’s trailer the afternoon he was shot. After Garcia’s arraignment in Port Isabel Municipal Court on Sept. 23, the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office said they would offer no comment on the investigation. 

Crime scene tape surrounds Ernesto Toral Norton’s trailer after he was shot and killed there on Sept. 21. Photo courtesy of Port Isabel Police Department.

Cameron County’s District Attorney Luis Saenz declined to comment on the questions the PRESS emailed him.  

According to sources familiar with the situation, the shooting happened accidentally among a group of five people, including Garcia and Norton. Garcia, sources said, was notably distraught after the shooting, insisting that he did not know the firearm that killed Norton was loaded. 

Text messages from someone who claimed to be present at the scene were shown to the PRESS: the sender describes Garcia handling a firearm and jokingly pulling the trigger assuming it was not loaded. The gun fired, hitting Norton in the chest. The sender was outside of the trailer speaking to Norton when he heard a gunshot. Everyone present ran. Norton, now alone, according to neighbors, walked outside of his trailer and collapsed. A person outside called 9-1-1 and EMS workers performed CPR. Norton would die 30 minutes after arriving at Valley Regional Medical Center, according to Lopez.

The gun has not been recovered, according to Lopez, but the caliber of the firearm was a 9mm. The PRESS could not verify who owned the gun or if it was registered. 

When asked if PIPD was considering the shooting accidental, Lopez said he couldn’t comment, saying the Texas Rangers were still interviewing people in their investigation. 

Lopez believes PIPD has interviewed all people who were at the scene of the shooting. 

But for Martinez, PIPD’s outreach for information was limited. According to Martinez, PIPD contacted him to help capture Garcia, who was arrested at the Beacon Bay housing complex next to Port Isabel High School, but not for any information past that. Garcia was there, Martinez said, to see his girlfriend before turning himself in.

“I feel used,” Martinez said. “They needed my help, I was trying to help them, and now they can’t even give me one call just to tell me ‘hey, your brother is going to Carrizalez (Rucker Detention Center).” 

Martinez said he was not notified of Garcia’s arraignment date by PIPD. Martinez also said Garcia was not allowed a phone call from jail because he was “under investigation,” a PIPD officer told Martinez. 

Garcia was transferred to Carrizalez-Rucker Detention Center in Olmito, Texas, after his arraignment in Port Isabel Municipal Court on Sept. 23. Charged with first-degree murder, Garcia’s bond was set at $500,000.

Lopez said PIPD did not reach out to family members because they believed they were uncooperative and could not get enough information from them.

“If they have any problems with the way the investigation was handled, they can contact Texas Rangers.” Lopez said. “I assure you they’re a professional, ethical department and they know nobody there and they take no sides.” 

“That’s their job, to come to us,” Martinez said. “I shouldn’t be going over there. If they wanted to they could come talk to me, because I’m the older brother.” 

Lopez said he encourages people, and Garcia’s family, to call PIPD if they believe there are more people they should speak to regarding Norton’s death. 

Norton’s trailer was purchased for him and Garcia by Martinez’s stepmother. Martinez, who will soon own the trailer, will either sell the home and give the money to Norton’s sister or give her the trailer, per Garcia’s request. 

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