With only 12 deputies patrolling Refugio County, backup is often needed.
“It’s kinda like a football team. If you have one player, you’re not gonna get very far, but one can pick up where the other left off,” Joe Braman said.
Highway 77 is a large corridor for illegal immigrants, which runs directly through Refugio. Sheriff’s deputies there often encounter violent crime.
“This is a daily occurrence. A weekly for sure,” Sheriff Pinky Gonzales said.
Braman has been training bloodhounds since 1998. His highly-skilled dogs are used to find suspects running from law enforcement.
Those operations have turned violent multiple times within the last year.
A majority of those encounters have involved illegal immigrants.
“We were running I think four people and one of the four people killed two of the dogs,” Braman said. “Strangled them to death.”
One of those violent encounters took place less than a month ago.
“Just the other day, we were running two defendants,” Braman said. “We caught one and we were running the other one, and we got about eight miles to the West of where we had deployed the dogs. They’d made contact with the suspect on a high fence, and we found one of our dogs deceased from lacerations.”
Braman said as painful as it is to lose an animal, his main concern is protecting law enforcement and residents in Refugio County.
“The reason I utilize these dogs is to keep more officers safe, and the public as well,” Braman said. “Because I know it sounds horrible, but if you can sacrifice a dog to save a human’s life, that’s my main goal.”
Refugio County, along with Nueces County, participates in the 287(g) program, which allows state and local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration policies by tracking illegal immigrants who are wanted by ICE.