The protesters of a Texas gas pipeline are standing by their leader, even after discovering he is a felon who had been on the run for a decade and is a registered sex offender.
In November of 2016, Pedro Rabago Gutierrez, a.k.a. Pete Hefflin, was the acting leader and environmentalist at the Trans-Pecos pipeline in West Texas, where protests were held over the natural gas pipeline that would run from Texas to Mexico.
Gutierrez even became head of the organization’s security and ceremonies and was named a board member of the Society of Native Nations due to claims of being a member of the Mescalero Apache tribe. However, it is unknown if his tribal affiliation is factual.
In 2002, Gutierrez was released from a California prison and placed on parole. However, he has been on the run ever since, after failing to keep in contact with California authorities.
According to Chron.com, “In 1984, he was sentenced to nine years for forcible rape, seven years for forcible oral sex and three years for possession of a controlled substance with an intent to sell. Gutierrez served the sentences concurrently and got out of prison about six years later, released on parole. But between 1990 and 1997, he was reimprisoned at least five times for parole violations, according to corrections records, and in 1998, was convicted of having sex with a minor under 18.”
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He was paroled in April of 2002 but the California Department of Corrections never heard from him again.
Gutierrez was recently discovered after handing a fake identification card to a local sheriff while waiting for his wife to be released from jail after she was detained during a protest. The protest leader’s real name — and the California warrant for his arrest dating back to 2007 — were quickly ascertained and he was arrested.
According to the police report, “Once his identity had been verified through the fingerprint scan, Hefflin admitted that his real name was Gutierrez and that he was wanted out of California.”
Gutierrez is being detained in Texas as he awaits extradition back to California.
Despite his sordid past, many of his activist friends are standing behind him.
Lori Glover, the land owner of the protest site who had a leading role in protest activities, said she was “privileged” to have worked with him.
“He served his time … made a new start,” Glover told the Chronicle. “I was unaware of any of this past history. Despite that, I feel very privileged to have worked with Pete Hefflin.”
Even Lori’s husband, Mark Glover, called Hefflin an “honorable man,” saying:
“I’ve known Pete Hefflin for six months, and I’ve found him to be a very honorable man and I will stand by him any day. American Indians have an incredibly high incarceration rate, and if he’s served prison time, I wouldn’t doubt it. But we believe in redemption, and we believe in Pete Hefflin.”
Josh Michener, an active protester who recently left the camp to take care of personal business, explained the arrest in a Facebook Live video wherein he portrayed camp “leadership” as being “targeted.”
Michener said, “They’re targeting leadership. They’re trying to find anything and everything they can dig up from the past.”
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