On the third week of April 1886, Nueces County Deputies Paulino Coy and Del Hoyo left Corpus Christi for Palito Blanco to arrest several individuals believed to be selling horses stolen from Hilario Cruz. The trip for Deputy Coy, who had already acquired a reputation as a vigilant officer amongst the Anglo community, would seal his status as a traitor amongst Mexican-Americans, and would result in one of the most notorious events in the annals of South Texas frontier history.
The sheriff had issued arrest warrants on April 14 for Andres Martinez and Pedro Peña. Coy and Del Hoyo first went to Martinez’s home but did not find him there. The deputies left word for Martinez to go to Collins because they needed him as a witness. The deputies left for Guajillo in search of Peña but did not find him.
On their return, the deputies ran into someone who told them he had bought horses from Peña who claimed he had bought them from Jose Maria Cadena. With this new information, Coy went back Palito Blanco to arrest Cadena.
On Friday, April 23, Martinez went to Collins along with Ireneo Lopez who provided bond for him. Martinez returned to Palito Blanco with Constable Juan Juarez to get another bondsman. On Sunday, Juarez returned to Collins along with Coy and Del Hoyo who had Cadena with them. Ed Allen brought Martinez while Coy, Del Hoyo, John Ranahan, Fermin Lopez and Cadena followed on horseback leading some horses. Lopez had come to give Martinez’s bond.
The deputies had found a horse in a field and a boy told them the horse belonged to Cadena. The officers handcuffed Martinez and Cadena, took them to Constable Juarez’s home, and left the prisoners in his charge. Martinez accused Peña of stealing the horses and said he had turned a horse and mule over to Cruz.
In the middle of the night, three masked men reportedly surprised Juarez, disarmed him, and fatally shot Martinez and Cadena, presumably while they slept.
All hell than broke loose; armed Mexicans-Americans went in search of Coy whom they believed was behind the assassination of Cadena and Martinez. A large crowd of armed men took over the town, posted guards, and began to look house by house for Coy. Unbeknownst to the citizen posse Coy had left for the countryside in search of other suspected horse thieves. Martinez’ father put up a $1,000 reward for the capture of Deputy Coy.
Nueces County Sheriff Pat Whelan took off for Duval County to round up the “ring leaders”. On Wednesday, April 28, residents at Los Indios, a ranch 12 miles from Benavides, came upon a gruesome site; they found Peña and Mateo Cadena hanging dead from a tree. Peña was the individual Martinez had accused of stealing Cruz’s horses and Mateo Cadena was a brother of Jose Maria Cadena who had been killed in the constable’s home at Collins. The locals quickly assumed that Deputies Coy and Ranahan were responsible for these deaths, since they had been in the area.
Stay tuned . . .