When the citizens of Laredo, Texas want to know what’s really happening around town, they don’t click on their local news station or pick up their citywide newspaper, instead, they look to their favorite Facebook blogger.
For the past couple years, many have been following Priscilla Villarreal, better known as Lagordiloca, as she combs the streets of Laredo looking to capture police as they make arrests. She then broadcasts this action live on Facebook for her thousands of followers to see. Some believe what this citizen journalist is reporting is a service to the community, while others feel that some of the activity Villarreal has broadcasted crosses the line and has interfered with police investigations.
It should come to little surprise that the controversial blogger has gone toe to toe with officers during her broadcasts, a conflict which has escalated since last summer when she arrived on the scene of a shooting where several officers had been wounded, the Daily Mail reports. Another officer on the scene threatened to confiscate Villarreal’s video. This conflict later came to a head on December 13, 2017, when Villarreal posted information only known to law enforcement.
Villarreal believes her arrest was a targeted attack in order to shut down her free speech, telling the Washington Post that local law enforcement was angry with her because tipsters are more willing to approach her with information than confide in the police.
According to that same report from the Washington Post, Villarreal’s arrest came after the suicide of a US Customs and Border Protection manager. Villarreal published the man’s name before it had been released to the public. Police say that Villarreal’s release of the agent’s name was in violation of the law and have since charged her with two felony counts of misuse of official information.
Police say Villarreal benefited from releasing this information before police issued an official statement or reports hit the local news because she was able to gain social media followers. Villarreal denies these allegations and claims she doesn’t do what she does every night for popularity. “I did not obtain any benefit and an increase in facebook popularity sounds ridiculous to me,” Villarreal told the Daily Mail.
Villarreal’s attorney, Sergio Lozano, also says that the notion that Villarreal had anything to gain by publishing the agent’s name online is ludicrous. “She doesn’t make any money from that. There is no real value to Facebook views,” Lozano said in an interview with the Daily Mail.
Villarreal says when she voluntarily turned herself over to police it was “like a circus.” Officers were swarming to capture her on video being taken into custody. Villarreal believes this is because of her willingness to criticize local law enforcement when necessary and the charges were fabricated as the result of a personal vendetta against her. She and her attorney are confident the charges will be dropped as prosecutors continue the investigation.
In addition to Villarreal, Officer Barbara J. Goodman has been accused of providing information directly to Villarreal that had not yet been made public. Phone records indicate that the two women had spoken frequently and often coincided with some of Villarreal’s Facebook posts. Officer Goodman, who has worked with the Laredo Police Department for 19 years, has denied these allegations. She has since been placed on administrative reassignment.