Tenn. trooper's death leads to federal charges - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Tenn. trooper's death leads to federal charges

Orlando Garcia Orlando Garcia

By WOODY BAIRD | Associated Press Writer

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A Texas man convicted in state court of taking part in the murder of a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper now faces federal charges that could carry a death sentence, according to an indictment made public Monday.

Orlando Garcia, 22, is serving a 19-year sentence in a Tennessee state prison as an accomplice in the shooting death of Trooper Calvin Jenks in 2007. Garcia is one of four men charged in the federal drug-smuggling indictment.

The men, all from the Austin, Texas, area are charged with conspiring to set up a marijuana smuggling network to western and middle Tennessee.

The conspiracy charges carry a maximum punishment of five years in prison, but Garcia is also accused of aiding in a murder while trafficking in drugs and carrying a gun. Those charges can carry a maximum punishment of death or life in prison.

Jenks, 24, was killed in rural Tipton County north of Memphis after pulling over a car driven by Garcia for what authorities described as a routine traffic check.

Alejandro Gauna, who was the lone passenger, was convicted of murder in the trooper's death and is serving a life sentence in state prison. He was not charged in the federal indictment.

The indictment, which grew out of the investigation into the trooper's slaying, charges the accused with conspiring to set up a smuggling network that would bring "thousands of dollars worth of marijuana" from Mexico and Texas into Tennessee.

Also charged with drug conspiracy were Ruben Gauna, 28, Jessie Arvizu, 30, and Emilio Fernandez, 38. Arvizu is also a part-time resident of Mexico, the indictment said.

The U.S. attorney's office in Memphis identified Ruben Gauna as Alejandro Gauna's brother and the lead organizer of the alleged conspiracy.

Leigh Anne Jordon, a spokeswoman for the Memphis prosecutor, said Ruben Gauna and Arvizu were in custody in Texas while Fernandez was in custody in Tennessee. Court records did not indicate if they were represented by lawyers.

Testimony at the state court trials of Alejandro Gauna and Garcia showed that Jenks was shot in the head when he leaned into their car saying he smelled marijuana.

Gauna could not face the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the trooper's death. He will be eligible for parole in 51 years. Garcia was convicted of facilitation to commit first-degree murder and will be eligible for parole from state prison in about six and a half years.
     
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


Action News 5 received the following press release Monday from the U.S. Attorney's Office:

Memphis, TN- A federal indictment has been unsealed charging four defendants for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute drugs in West Tennessee announced Lawrence J. Laurenzi, United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.  This case resulted from an investigation that stemmed from the January 6, 2007 shooting and death of Highway Patrol Trooper Calvin Jenks.

The indictment, which was returned on April 28, 2009,  alleges in Count One that RUBEN GAUNA, 28, JESSIE ARVIZU, 30, EMILIO FERNANDEZ, 38, ORLANDO GARCIA, 22, all of Austin, Texas conspired with one another to bring large amounts of marijuana into the United States from Mexico to distribute in the Western and Middle Districts of Tennessee.  The defendants allegedly purchased marijuana in Texas and then used a stash house to store the drug until it could be transported into Tennessee for distribution.  The defendants are alleged to have also possessed and used various firearms for the protection of their narcotic business.  Violations of the Conspiracy Statute carry a penalty of up to five years in federal prison.

The indictment further alleges in Counts Two through Four that GARCIA carried a firearm while trafficking drugs and then aided and abetted another person to use a firearm and cause the death of law enforcement officer, Trooper Calvin Jenks, who was engaged in and performing his duties as an officer of the law.  Counts Three and Four carry a penalty of up to Life in Prison or Death.

"The United States Attorney's Office is committed to getting drug traffickers off the streets," said U. S. Attorney Laurenzi.  "The facts and crimes of violence alleged in this case show further cause as to why we in law enforcement must be vigilant in investigating and prosecuting drug trafficking organizations."

Rodney G. Benson, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division commented on the case, "The distribution of dangerous drugs and associated gun violence are a recipe for disaster. When these two elements co-exist, violence is imminent, such as was the case with Trooper Jenks. DEA is committed to removing violent drug traffickers from the streets. This case was possible because of the spirited cooperative efforts between our multi-level law enforcement colleagues."

Department of Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell stated, "I want to commend U. S.  Attorney Lawrence J. Laurenzi and investigators with the DEA, TBI, and the THP Criminal Investigation Division (CID) for their work in identifying Texas subjects allegedly involved in the distribution of marijuana to Tennessee.  Indictments against individuals who participate in drug trafficking schemes demonstrate that the justice system continues to function effectively to rid our streets of drug distributors associated with violent crime."

"On behalf of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, I would like to thank all the cooperating agencies who made sure justice was served in this case. Drug trafficking will not be tolerated in Tennessee and TBI will remain vigilant in fighting the war on drugs, " stated Director Mark Gwyn of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

"I appreciate the efforts of the US Attorney's Office in seeking these indictments on those that were responsible for the killing of Trooper Calvin Jenks.  This sends a strong message to people who are trafficking drugs into Tipton County and especially those that will harm a law enforcement officer," said Sheriff Pancho Chumley of Tipton County.

This case was investigated by the Tennessee Highway Patrol-Criminal Investigation Division, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Tipton County Sheriff's Office, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.  Assistant United States Attorney Jerry Kitchen is handling the case for the government.

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