On December 8, 2003, two fishermen were fishing in Galveston Bay where they were expecting a good day of fishing, but they soon discovered something else more than fish. They observed a big plastic bag floating in the bay and they reeled in the bag and put it in the back of their boat. After a couple of hours of fishing and without realizing there was something gruesome and an unexpecting surprise waiting for them. Once they reached the shore, the fisherman opened the plastic bag and shockingly discovered a decapitated head. Shortly after, a suitcase was found floating near their boat and inside the suitcase was a headless torso. Galveston police were called and they were able to identify the victim as Ranferi Arizaga. The next day the legs and arms were discovered in another section of the bay. At this time in the investigation, it was assumed that the murder and dismemberment of the body occurred in Galveston. However, witnesses came forward about witnessing a murder near the location where Arizaga was reported missing.
My partner, Sgt. Larry Hoffmaster, and I worked with Galveston police to follow up on the investigation and determine who were responsible for the murder and dismemberment of Arizaga. We learned that Arizaga was initially shot and taken to a different location where the suspects dismembered the body. Arizaga’s body was then placed in the plastic bag and the suitcase and dumped into Galveston Bay. According to the pathologist, the incisions and dismemberment of the body were done precisely and the person(s) knew exactly what they were doing.
Three possible suspects were taken in for questioning. Unfortunately, because of lack of evidence they were not charged with murder, but that of a lesser charge. The suspects identified the actual shooter as Raul Flores, but informed us that he fled to Mexico shortly after the murder. Five years later, we have information that Flores is still hiding out in Mexico and periodically crossing the border back into Texas. Flores is currently wanted for another murder that occurred in 2004 in Hildago County, which is located in south Texas near the Mexican border. Efforts have not slowed in locating Flores from the law enforcement agencies in Houston to the agencies along the border and South Texas.
The suspects were identified as proud members of a notorious and ruthless prison and street gang called the Los Hermanos de Pistoleros. The HPL gang was mainly involved in drug trafficking and money laundering millions of dollars through the sale of contraband and cocaine.
Arizaga was the “Captain” of the Houston chapter but the higher level members of the HPL gang ordered a hit on Arizaga’s life. Needless to say, the prison gang didn’t care who they killed, regardless of whether or not they were affliated in their own gang. Another member was already appointed and ready to take Arizaga’s position. Throughout the investigation, we got a glimpse and insight to the culture of this prison and street gang and the loyalty of the members. The HPL gang was highly organized and efficient but they were not immune to criminal charges. After years of investigation and the efforts of several multi agencies , twenty-four high ranking members of the Houston and Laredo chapters were arrested and charged federally for drug trafficking and money laundering.
Alarmingly, the HPL gang is one of many organized prison and street gangs that exist in the Texas prison systems and the rest of the country. It is imperative that we come up with solutions for controlling and limiting the activities of these violent gangs.