Irvin murder plot alleged Policeman charged with ordering 'hit' on Cowboys star

June 28, 1996|By FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM

DALLAS -- A Dallas police officer who had been subpoenaed to testify in the Michael Irvin drug trial was arrested yesterday on charges that he tried to hire a hit man to kill the Cowboys wide receiver.

Police chief Ben Click called a news conference late yesterday to announce the arrest of Johnnie Hernandez, 28, a five-year police veteran with an array of commendations on his record.

Hernandez, who lives at the same Cedar Hill address previously listed for two women involved in the Irvin drug case, was arrested on a charge of solicitation of capital murder one day after he is said to have paid an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent several thousand dollars as a down payment for a "hit" on Irvin, Click said.

"They did come to an agreement on a price. The officer did make a partial payment -- a large sum of money," Click said.

Hernandez was being held in isolation last night at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center in lieu of $250,000 bond on the solicitation of capital murder charge. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 99 years in prison. Hernandez resigned from the police department after his arrest, Click said.

One law enforcement source said Hernandez believed that Irvin had repeatedly threatened the officer's girlfriend with violence if she testified at his drug trial and wanted to stop the threats.

The officer's girlfriend, Rachelle Marie Smith, is a topless dancer who has worked at The Men's Club of Dallas with Angela Beck, one of two women indicted with Irvin on the drug charges.

"The officer wanted the hit to occur very, very soon," Click said. "We made the arrest during the day and at that time felt we needed to make the arrest to make sure nobody got hurt."

The law enforcement source, who insisted on remaining anonymous, also said the district attorney's office is investigating whether Irvin engaged in witness tampering and is considering retaliation charges against him. "Michael Irvin was tampering with the witness, and Mr. Hernandez was going to get it stopped," the source said, adding that Irvin warned the witness repeatedly not to testify about his lifestyle "or you could be hurt."

Irvin declined to comment as he drove up to the Cowboys' Valley Ranch practice facility last night, accompanied by five men. "I don't have anything to say," he said.

Teammate Deion Sanders called the events unbelievable. "It's truly ridiculous," he said, "but you've got a lot of crazy, ignorant, envious people out there."

State District Judge Manny Alvarez said he was not concerned about security for the rest of the Irvin trial. "I have no concern whatsoever -- not only for Mr. Irvin's safety -- or for any court personnel or anyone else in the courthouse," he said.

Pub Date: 6/28/96

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