Family and friends of Sean Paul Velasquez gathered at the San Jacinto County Courthouse in Coldspring on Wednesday to demand justice for their slain loved one. Velasquez, 19, was brutally shot to death on March 24, 2023, at a residence in Willis.
Marching around the steps of the courthouse square, the 80 or so people in attendance shouted, “Justice for Seal Paul, justice for Sean Paul,” while holding up signs that read: “We are his voice!” and “No bail, go to jail.”
The prayer march was in protest to the reduced bond of his accused killer, Joshua Escobar, 19. The shooting was reportedly prompted when Velasquez began dating the ex-girlfriend of Escobar.
After his arrest, Escobar’s bond was set at $1 million, which was reduced last week by 258th State District Judge Travis Kitchens to $75,000. The bond reduction comes with a caveat – Escobar must wear an ankle monitor and be under house arrest; however, Velasquez’s family believes he should not see another day of freedom as he awaits trial.
“With the bond being reduced to such a low number, we aren’t sure now that we can even get a fair trial here in San Jacinto County. If justice can’t be fair to my family, then we want a change of venue, or at least a change of judge,” said Velasquez’s mom, Karla.
Karla’s sister-in-law and Sean’s aunt, Bengie, agreed, adding, “Our court system, we know it’s not where it needs to be, but we also need to speak up. We need people to know that we aren’t just another Hispanic family, that Sean Paul and his family, we’re all Americans, too. We are U.S. citizens. We’re not going to let this go lightly, so we want that to be heard.”
Sean grew up in Coldspring and attended local schools. The oldest of three children in the Velasquez family, he had plans to join his father Paulo’s roofing business.
“Everyone in our community knows us. They knew my son. Those who knew him saw that he was a good, hard-working kid. Even in the summers, he worked. He would help people around our neighborhood, too, doing honey-do jobs for people. All he wanted was to pursue his father’s business. Now all his dreams have been taken away with him,” Karla said.
Tom Fink, a neighbor of the Velasquez family, spoke at the prayer march about Sean’s character, watching him grow up from a small child into the young man he became.
“He was a great person, a really nice young man, and he didn’t deserve what happened to him … these kids, I’ve never seen kids that were that respectful always,” Fink said. “Sadly enough in life, there are groups of kids out there who are gangbangers and this and that. I can guarantee you that was not the case with Sean. Sean did not deserve what he got. I can only hope that our court system, our judicial system, will do what needs to be done and put this guy behind bars for the rest of his life.”
Attending the prayer march also was San Jacinto County Assistant District Attorney Rob Freyer. While Freyer could not speak about the case specifically, he assured the Velasquez family that the DA’s office would do everything within its power to bring justice to their family.
“I’m out here because I support the victims of crime in this community. I’m out here because I support Sean’s family. I’m out here because his family deserves justice. This community deserves justice for what was a senseless, tragic, avoidable act,” Freyer said.
Houston-based immigrant-led civil rights organization FIEL (Familias, Inmigrantes, Estudiantes en la Lucha), represented by Alain Cisneros, was present for the march. Cisneros said he is concerned that the recent mass killing of five Hondurans in San Jacinto County, allegedly committed by suspect Francisco Oropeza, may overshadow the prosecution of Escobar.
“We want to make sure that the expenses of the Oropeza case do not hurt other cases. I am not sure if a change of venue is needed. That’s a good question. My concern is the jurors who might get picked for this trial. Because this town is more Anglo, even though more Latinos are moving into the area, there is a chance there will not be diversity in the jury. We want to see diversity because that can bring fairness,” Cisneros said.
The DA’s office anticipates taking the Velasquez murder case to the grand jury on May 31. The Velasquez family and their supporters plan to be at the courthouse that day to continue their demands for justice.