DIME BOX, Texas — A Lee County sheriff's deputy was shot in the line of duty late Tuesday night. The suspect involved in the shooting died.
Lee County Sheriff Casey Goetz said that on Tuesday at 9:45 p.m., the Lee County Sheriff's Office received information that a suspect officials were looking for, who they believed was trying to go to Mexico, was actually in Dime Box.
Goetz said the sheriff's office had a warrant for this man's arrest for failure to appear on a sexual assault of a child charge, and that this suspect had prior arrests for murder and sexual assault.
The Lee County Sheriff's Office said that a deputy and a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper attempted to locate the suspect, Raul Vega Perez. The pair of officials located Perez near the 1000 block of Stephen F. Austin Blvd. in Dime Box. The agency said that Perez entered a home as the deputy and trooper gave chase into the residence. Shortly after, Perez opened fire on the deputies, according to Goetz.
Goetz said the deputy and state trooper returned fire, exited the residence and the sheriff's office was able to remove the deputy who was shot. Goetz said at the time of the incident, there were three people inside the residence — the suspect, a woman and a 7-year-old child — and another person, a woman, was outside the residence.
Perez was pronounced dead at the scene by Judge Michael York at 1 a.m. Wednesday.
The deputy was shot twice in the upper left shoulder area and was immediately airlifted to a hospital in Austin. According to Goetz, the deputy, identified as Criminal Investigations Lt. Jordan Mastronardi was in surgery for four hours. As of just after 6 a.m., he was out of surgery. At around 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, Goetz said the deputy was in critical but stable condition.
In an update on Monday, May 16, the Lee County Sheriff's Office said Mastronardi was being moved out of ICU and is expected to make a complete recovery.
Neighbors told KVUE they heard “commotion” overnight but were unsure of what had taken place. They said that there was “always a racket” happening at the home where the shooting took place. One neighbor also claimed Perez had a “bright light” he’d use to shine around the property.
Neighbors added they were not aware of Perez’s criminal history, or how long he’d been living on Stephen F Austin Boulevard in Dime Box.
Goetz said Mastronardi is an "outstanding deputy" and an investigator with the sheriff's office. He has been with the agency for more than 10 years.
"We have a wonderful group of folks that work here in Lee County, a lot of outstanding officers, and they gladly go out and serve the public," Goetz said. "And I know if you asked this deputy, he would just tell you he was just doing his job."
The Lee County Sheriff's Office said this is an active, ongoing investigation with the Texas Rangers. No additional information is available at this time.
A crowdfunding effort has started to help cover the medical costs for the deputy.
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