Fort Worth

A sniffling man, cocaine joke and fatal stabbing at a taco joint

Neon and yellow lights light the parking lot and walk up window of El Mil Tacos on Hemphill St.
Neon and yellow lights light the parking lot and walk up window of El Mil Tacos on Hemphill St. Star-Telegram archives

A man with the sniffles who police say took offense after two strangers jokingly accused him of snorting cocaine faces a murder charge in connection with the fatal stabbing of one of the men in the neck.

Juan Ruben Gallegos had been in line at the walk-up window of El Mil Tacos restaurant at 4117 Hemphill St. on the night of Oct. 22 to purchase food when two brothers, Marco and Jesus Cabrera, made the cocaine comments, prompting an argument.

Jesus Cabrera later told investigators that the brothers had only been joking.

Witnesses told police that Gallegos received his food and took it to his Dodge Charger parked nearby, then returned to where the two brothers were standing.

They told police he punched Jesus Cabrera in the face, then stabbed 20-year-old Marco Cabrera in the neck with a pocketknife when Marco tried to protect his brother, according to an arrest warrant affidavit written by homicide Detective J. Cedillo.

Officers responded to the restaurant at 11:14 p.m. after hearing screaming coming from the location. They found Marco Cabrera in the parking lot bleeding from the left side of his neck.

Marco Cabrera was pronounced dead from the stab wound four days later at John Peter Smith Hospital.

Shortly after the stabbing, officers broadcast a description of the suspect’s car, which was linked to Gallegos and soon tracked to his parents’ home in Fort Worth.

In a voluntary interview with detectives in the early morning hours of Oct. 23, Gallegos admitted to arguing with two men at the restaurant “because they accused him of snorting cocaine due to his sniffling,” the affidavit states.

Gallegos claimed he had dropped off his food at his car, where his wife and 1-year-old son were waiting, but told investigators that the two men approached his car.

He told detectives he then pulled out a knife and challenged the men in Spanish to a fight, the affidavit states.

Gallegos denied punching Jesus Cabrera, insisting that it was he who was punched by Marco Cabrera.

“He stated he stabbed Marco Cabrera while trying to defend himself,” Cedillo wrote in the affidavit. “Juan Gallegos admitted he never saw Marco nor Jesus Cabrera with a weapon.”

Gallegos then directed detectives to a trash bin, which contained a pocketknife which appeared to have blood on it.

The affidavit indicates that video surveillance footage, however, was consistent with the other witnesses’ accounts, not Gallegos’.

“Based on the evidence learned during this investigation and the surveillance footage obtained, at no point was Juan Gallegos’ life in danger, and [he] was not justified in producing a deadly weapon,” Cedillo wrote in the affidavit. “Juan Gallegos had every opportunity to walk away and furthermore he had an opportunity to drive away, but chose not to.”

After Marco Cabrera’s death, detectives obtained a murder warrant against Gallegos. He was arrested Friday and remained in the Mansfield Jail on Tuesday with bail set at $100,000.

He is also being detained on an immigration hold, jail records show.

Deanna Boyd: 817-390-7655, @deannaboyd