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State Rep. Anchia: Legislation Increasing Penalty for Removing Ankle Monitors Is ‘Not a Big Ask’

State Rep. Rafael Anchia is ready to file two bills that were spurred by the shooting deaths of two Dallas Methodist Hospital employees by a parolee wearing an ankle monitor.
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Nestor Hernandez is accused in the shooting deaths of two Dallas Methodist Hospital employees—Katie Flowers and Jacqueline Pokuaa. He was out on parole, and wearing an ankle monitor. Dallas Police Department

When state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, first heard that the man who shot and killed a nurse and a social worker at Dallas Methodist Hospital had just been released from jail for attempting to cut off his ankle monitor, he was surprised that he had not been sent back to prison.

Court records (and a state investigation) would later show that Nestor Hernandez had been given at least second and third chances after violating the terms of his parole. He first violated his curfew, and then attempted to cut off his ankle monitor. For the latter, he spent 100 days in jail, and was released on September 28, 2022. On October 20, a little over three weeks later, he began shooting at Methodist Dallas Medical Center while visiting his girlfriend and new baby. He is accused of killing hospital employees Katie Flowers and Jacqueline Pokuaa.

Hernandez has been charged with two counts of capital murder.

Anchia says he will soon file legislation that will make it a felony for a parolee to remove or attempt to remove their ankle monitor. His bill would also send the offender back to prison to complete the remainder of their sentence. 

“You know, I thought it was massively illegal—I thought what I’m trying to do was already the law,” Anchia says. “By taking the ankle monitor off, you break the law, and I thought the law was that there’s an immediate revocation of your parole.”

The lawmaker, whose district includes the hospital where the shooting took place, says that he also plans to file a bill that would require parole offices to inform the hospital’s chief law enforcement official (or the chief of police if the hospital does not have its own police force) if a violent offender who is on parole intends to visit their campus.

“What was also shocking is that there was no affirmative obligation on the part of the Board of Pardons and Paroles to let the hospital know that a violent criminal was going to be visiting the hospital,” Anchia said. 

That sentiment was first voiced in the days after the shooting. “I wish that we would’ve known—but that is not some information that was provided to us beforehand,” said Glen Fowler, Methodist Health System’s police chief.

A report filed by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles found that one of Hernandez’s six parole violations happened the day of the shooting. That one was withdrawn after investigators said he had gone to the hospital for the birth of his child. 

Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia, who called ankle monitors “useless,” said he felt that if investigators knew Hernandez needed permission to go to the hospital, there was enough time to also alert the hospital. 

“If an individual needed permission to go someplace, then you would think that the place that they were going to would have some communication,” he told the Dallas Morning News.

The report from the TDCJ and BPP also detailed numerous lapses in supervision for Hernandez and in another case of a parolee named Zeric Jackson. The latter, also on an ankle monitor, violated his parole 16 times by visiting his girlfriend without permission before shooting Brian Dillard at that same girlfriend’s apartment last November.

That prompts the question: Even if both bills pass, can Anchia be certain that supervision of parolees will have improved enough to ensure that hospitals are warned?

“I didn’t get a lot of warm and fuzzies from the report that there was going to be a massively systemic change in policy or procedure to stop this in the future, and that’s why I think we need legislation,” he said. “I agree that a highly flawed agency, and having the confidence that they will execute is something we’re gonna have to hold our breath on, but I think in the absence of very prescriptive direction, they’re not going to do anything different.

“Will this law stop every instance? No. But will it have the propensity of reducing risk in the system? Yes,” he said.

It seems as if Anchia’s efforts will also have bipartisan support. State Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) filed a bill with similar penalty increases for removing an ankle monitor in the 86th legislative session, and he says he is hopeful she will file a companion bill this session. Gov. Greg Abbott urged Speaker Dade Phelan and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to make the matter a priority in the legislature, too. Anchia also said that several law enforcement groups have also voiced support.

“If either of these two things would have been in place, Jacqueline and Katie would be alive today,” he says. “This is not a big ask—this is basic blocking and tackling by the Board of Pardons and paroles to keep the community safe.”

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.
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