On Wednesday, March 4, after two days of testimony, an Erath County jury of six women and six men found Caesar Vazquez, 32, guilty of the felony offense of Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Felon and sentenced him to the maximum possible punishment of 20 years in the penitentiary.
The punishment range for Vazquez’s offense was enhanced due to prior criminal history. Vazquez faced a punishment range of two to 20 years in prison.
Officers Andrew Honecker and Zachary Robuck of the Stephenville Police Department testified regarding a “shots fired” dispatch to Clark Lane in Stephenville on Oct. 21, 2018. When officers from the Stephenville Police Department and Texas Department of Public Safety arrived in the area, they observed a male run into a house. Based on recent briefings concerning Vazquez, Officer Honecker noted a silver BMW belonging to Vazquez parked at the house. Vazquez was, at the time, wanted based on a domestic violence warrant issued two weeks earlier. Law enforcement attempted to make contact with Vazquez, who refused to come out of the house. Officers observed through windows what appeared to be an SKS-style rifle set against a wall near where Vazquez had hidden himself. Several officers entered the home and removed the rifle, and after a 45-minute standoff, Vazquez exited the house and was arrested.
Vazquez’s former girlfriend, who was the prior victim of the domestic assault, testified concerning text messages she received from Vazquez suggesting that if law enforcement caught up with him, he would be “six feet under”. Vazquez also sent with those text messages and posted on social media photographs of himself holding what appeared to be an SKS-style rifle. The rifle recovered from the house was presented in court, and it was identical in design and appearance to the rifle depicted in the photographs.
In asking the jury to sentence Vazquez to the maximum, District Attorney Alan Nash argued:
“Firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens are instruments of protection, recreation, and they aid in maintaining order in our communities. However, firearms in the hands of repeat criminals such as the defendant deprive us of the peace and security we enjoy in this county.
“There is no street or road in Erath County we should be afraid to take our children and grandchildren for a walk any time, day or night. To keep it that way, we must act decisively to send away criminals like the defendant who would deprive us of that peace and security.”