Officials say a woman admits to setting fire to a memorial built after an immigrant tragedy

Officials say a woman admits to setting fire to a memorial built after an immigrant tragedy

Saldana says the memorial was “very personal” for the city of San Antonio.

san antonio – The above video aired back in October 2022.

A woman was arrested after setting fire to a memorial dedicated to the deaths of immigrants Tuesday morning on the far southwest side, according to the San Antonio Arson’s Office, Lt. Noe Saldana.

Officials said the woman was 44 and identified as Estella Banda.

Saldana says firefighters were called to the scene at the 9500 block of Quintana Road for an unauthorized burning around 6 a.m.

The fire was extinguished and fire investigators were called to the scene.

During the investigation, officials say an arrest warrant was obtained for Banda and she was brought in to issue a statement in which she admitted to setting the fire and destroying the monument.

Banda told arson investigators that she was “compelled by the Holy Spirit” and that her thinking about the fire was doing God’s work, according to Saldana.

Saldana says the memorial was “very personal” for the city of San Antonio.

“This is an extremely important arrest for our city, our department and our fire department because of the heinous nature of the crime that was committed earlier this year,” Saldana says.

Banda was arrested and charged with arson, which is a felony.

When investigators announced Banda’s arrest, the Good Samaritans worked hard to rebuild the memorial.

“We got there early, and we found out that someone had set the monument on fire,” said Diego Armando Patraca Rueda, who is visiting San Antonio from Mexico.

Rueda arrived at the memorial off Quintana Road Wednesday morning with his cousin, who frequently visits the site, to leave water, ice and fruit for the visitors.

“It’s a way for us to comfort these souls, for those who have died,” Rueda explained. “So that they may rest eternally and people may come and pay their respects.”

When Rueda and his cousin arrive at the monument, they find the pulpit and several burning crosses. Rueda’s cousin started making calls.

“My cousin called people he knows who work at Home Depot to get firewood,” said Rueda. “Then he called a friend who works on a construction site to bring along the other tools needed to build the crosses.”

When asked if Rueda and his cousin knew any of the victims, he answered in the negative. He said they wanted to help because it was the right thing to do.

“In Mexico, it is customary for us to support others. We don’t have much, but what we have, we give to others,” he explained. “At the end of the day, we are all the same. We are all human.”

By 4pm Wednesday, the new crosses were complete.

“It says volumes for this effort that has been grassroots since the beginning,” said Sandragris Martinez, curator and organizer of the memorial.

Martinez broke down in tears when she first saw her up close for the damage.

It is believed that the suspect threw memorabilia from the monument onto the pulpit before setting it on fire.

Martinez called on immigrant families to share the heartbreaking news.

“Unfortunately, for all of us, something probably should have happened,” Martinez said. “It’s really hard for me to say those words.” “So we can get more support from the city here.”

Since the memorial’s creation, Martinez says funding for the pools, birthday parties, and supplies has come from national organizations. Donors, like Rueda’s cousin, will drop food and water, too.

District 4 Councilwoman Dr. Adriana Rocha García says she would like to focus on getting a permanent memorial to the 53 immigrants. She says the next step is to raise funds to create it.

In the meantime, to protect the temporary memorial and the people who visit it, Rocha García is open to providing security.

“I think this is a good opportunity to say we need some additional reinforcement, so I definitely think that’s something important to look at,” she said.

On Wednesday afternoon, a number of pieces of art that lined the memorial’s fence were removed from the site. Martinez says the flaps have several holes in them, which started showing up about two weeks ago.

The paintings were moved to Casa Azul off Buena Vista to join a larger art installation about immigration.

The memorial was established after the deaths of 53 immigrants in a tractor-trailer in June 2022, and is considered the deadliest migrant smuggling event in US history.

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