21-year-old suspect escapes from HIDTA federal agents

RIO GRANDE CITY — The suspect in a HIDTA investigation managed to escape from federal agents Friday and remains on the run.

Luis Alfredo Salinas Chavez, 21, was taken into Starr County HIDTA custody at approximately 10 a.m. Friday, according to Jesus Diaz, the county’s HIDTA commander. HIDTA, also known as the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, had been tasked with taking over a marijuana case from Border Patrol’s Rio Grande City station.

HIDTA is a federal grant program that provides assistance to state and local law enforcement agencies in “critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States,” according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

After being processed at the HIDTA office, and prior to his arrest, Salinas “managed to escape from detention after manipulating the locks on the handcuffs he had on him,” Diaz said via text message. He did not return requests for comment as to existing security measures at the office, nor whether previous suspects have escaped from HIDTA custody.

“The HIDTA commander and administrator has addressed this matter with the agent and Rio (Grande City Police Department) regarding appropriate measures to be taken to safeguard prisoners,” 229th District Attorney Omar Escobar said in a text message.

The county’s HIDTA task force falls under his office’s purview, and Escobar said Salinas “apparently has experience manipulating handcuffs.”

HIDTA agents, along with Rio Grande City police officers, Texas Department of Public Safety agents and Border Patrol agents, searched the area for Salinas, according to Diaz, but were unable to locate him. Border Patrol agents discovered footprints near the river and told Diaz that Salinas possibly fled to Mexico.

There is a warrant for Salinas’ arrest on charges of possession of marijuana and escape from custody, second and third degree felonies, respectively. Both state and federal agencies are actively looking for him, Escobar said.