Following arrest, mayor’s social media response, Brownsville woman accused of ‘BTX’ mural vandalism demands apology
A Brownsville woman is demanding an apology from the city after a group of officers arrested her at her home for a Class B misdemeanor charge that later led to the Brownsville mayor publicly sharing her mugshot and workplace on social media.
The misdemeanor charge stems from a Feb. 15 vandalism of the “BTX” mural at the corner of East Levee and 11th Street. The words "gentrified stop SpaceX” were spray-painted just below the artwork, and Brownsville police believe 30-year-old Rebekah Hinojosa committed the crime.
But Hinojosa is not admitting fault. Instead, she claims the response is an abuse of power by the mayor.
The BTX mural drew criticism when it was completed in September of last year by a Los Angeles artist who was paid $20,000 using Elon Musk Foundation monies. Some members of the community felt it didn't represent the city.
Now, the graffiti incident is opening a new conversation and posing the question of whether the crime warranted the response.
On the night of Feb. 15, surveillance video captures the moment a person vandalized the mural. In response, four officers showed up at Hinojosa’s home the following morning.
Hinojosa says only one officer was in uniform.
"I open the door a crack. I ask who is it, and they tell me it's Brownsville PD,” said Hinojosa. “I ask to see a warrant and they pushed the door in and they come into my apartment, and they put my hands behind my back and I beg them to let me at least change, because I'm in my pajamas and I'm barefoot, and they threatened me with charging me for resisting arrest."
Hinojosa says she was jailed for roughly 26 hours before bonding out. It was a Facebook post made shortly after by Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez that garnered criticism.
The statement, which had mentioned Hinojosa’s workplace, has since been edited, but both Hinojosa and her attorney believe it was not the right call.
“To treat her as a violent criminal, it's just obscene,” said Mike Siegel, a civil rights attorney based out of Austin. “To me, it seems a plain abuse of power."
The words on the mural have since been painted over. Mendez says he will let the legal process take its course, and that it was all captured on city cameras.
Video obtained by Channel 5 News through a public information request shows someone spray-painting the words on the mural before walking into a store, coming out, and later driving off.
Hinojosa is maintaining her innocence, but as a vocal critic of SpaceX, she says whoever did commit the act was likely trying to send a message.
In her own message to the mayor, she asks Mendez for a public apology.
“It was inappropriate to publicly target a community member, a very active constituent,” Hinojosa said. “And he should apologize to me and drop the charge.”
Mendez said on Feb. 24 that he would no longer be addressing the matter, and redirected Channel 5 News to a Facebook statement he made.
Channel 5 News made three public record requests, including for the arrest report, security footage and body camera footage. Officials said they needed more information to locate the body footage. It’s unclear when Channel 5 News will receive the video
Read the Brownsville mayor’s edited statement below: