Deputies interested in joining the “Marines” of the Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Department do so on a volunteer basis. They then go through an interview process with Mercer, who makes the final decision whether to admit them to the team, based on their qualifications. Mercer said many of the Tac Team’s original members had already had some high-risk training before joining the squad.
Mercer first established Palo Pinto County’s Tac Team in the wake of the Briones Case in 2010, when 4-year-old Salvador Briones Jr. was kidnapped from his bed at his parents’ Mineral Wells home on July 16 of that year. He was found tied up and dead in a hot, vacant house on U.S. Highway 281 North that night. Two days later, Briones’ kidnapper, 23-year-old Arturo Pacheco-Barrera – a fugitive who had escaped FBI custody – was shot and killed by a Mineral Wells police officer when he refused to comply with the officer’s orders and reached for his waistband. The case was closed, but Mercer was left feeling frustrated by his department’s inability to better handle the case.
“The Briones case was the catalyst that got me started thinking that we needed [the Tac Team],” he said. “We were searching houses and I didn’t have a Tactical Team to do it with. We didn’t have the resources to deal with our own situation. Parker County came in and did it for us. I just felt like it was necessary, at this point in time, for us to have something that we could utilize to deal with those type of situations.”
Mercer made his Tac Team a reality. Now, he said his team regularly runs high-risk search warrants throughout the county where, previously, that need was not met. Since its inception, Mercer said the Tac Team has performed between 20 to 30 high-risk warrants of this kind. He added that when the City-County Narcotics Unit has a warrant, they call his tactical specialists to take the reins, clear the houses and take down dangerous criminals.