While normally a ceremonial day reserved for platitudes, the last day of the legislative session ended on a serious, contentious note after a conservative lawmaker was assaulted and threatened by House Democrats.
Republican State Rep. Matt Rinaldi of Irving is claiming that he was assaulted and threatened by Democrat State Reps. Poncho Nevarez (Eagle Pass) and Ramon Romero (Fort Worth) after calling Immigration and Customs Enforcement on illegal immigrants in the gallery that were protesting the passage of SB 4, the ban on sanctuary cities.
In a video of the incident shot by KVUE-Austin, Nevarez can be seen clearly instigating a conflict with Rinaldi that is quickly broken up by other lawmakers. While no video exists of the threats made against Rinaldi, several lawmakers have confirmed to Texas Scorecard that they witnessed Nevarez issue them.
Shortly after the event, Rinaldi departed the House floor to his office where he has been placed under DPS protection, while Hispanic Democrat lawmakers called a press conference for them to grandstand on the issues.
Here is Rinaldi’s statement, as posted on Facebook:
“Today, Representative Poncho Nevarez threatened my life on the House floor after I called ICE on several illegal immigrants who held signs in the gallery which said ‘I am illegal and here to stay,’” said Rinaldi in a statement. “Several Democrats encouraged the protestors to disobey law enforcement. When I told the Democrats I called ICE, Representative Ramon Romero physically assaulted me, and other Democrats were held back by colleagues. During that time Poncho told me that he would ‘get me on the way to my car.’ He later approached me and reiterated that ‘I had to leave at some point, and he would get me.’ I made it clear that if he attempted to, in his words, ‘get me,’ I would shoot him in self-defense. I am currently under DPS protection. Several of my colleagues heard the threats made and witnessed Ramon assaulting me.”
State Rep. Chris Turner, the chairman of the House Democrat Caucus used the event to call Rinaldi a “disgrace” in a statement released via Twitter.
Matt Rinaldi is a disgrace to the House and his district, which deserves far better. Time for some big changes in #txlege
— Chris Turner (@ChrisGTurner) May 29, 2017
Turner’s counterpart, State Rep. Tan Parker of Flower Mound – who serves as the chairman of the House Republican Caucus – did not respond to requests for comment.