Business as Usual: Brownsville main branch library reopens

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Brownsville resident Mark Torres gets started on a writing project at the Brownsville Public Library main branch at 2600 Central Blvd. on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Gary Long | The Brownsville Herald)

The Brownsville Public Library main branch at 2600 Central Blvd. had a business-as-usual look on Tuesday, 10 days after a shooting there left one man dead and closed the library.

The shooting was the result of an altercation between Humberto Paz, 33, and Vahid Khaledi, 71, who was found unresponsive at the scene with a gunshot wound to the head.

Paz remained jailed on $3.25 million in bonds on first- and second-degree murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charges at the Cameron County Carrizales-Rucker Detention Center in Olmito.

The library had a soft reopening on Monday, which was also the first day of early voting for the May 28 Texas primary runoff election.

Election officials said about 400 people voted Monday and about 200 by mid-day Tuesday.

Library Services Director Juan J. Guerra said the city’s response to the shooting underscored the library system’s ongoing behind-the-scenes attention to public safety.

“We have police officers stationed at both of our libraries. We’re trying to be more vigilant of public safety,” Guerra said. “Hopefully our patrons feel comfortable coming back.”

“One of the things that I admire about our community is the resilience, the united community that we have. Even after something tragic we still come out and we support each other,” City Commissioner Bryan Martinez said.

About a half-hour after the library opened, Brownsville resident Mark Torres was seated at a table in front of stacks of books. He said he was there “to get in a comfortable place to write something that’s been on my mind. To me, this is a very comfortable location that came to mind.”

A view of the Brownsville Public Library Main Branch Tuesday, May 21, 2024, as the library reopens after a fatal shooting Saturday, May 11, 2024, which has led to heightened security at the Brownsville library. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

Torres said he used to come to the library more when he was younger and was glad this branch and the one in Southmost are open.

The library’s main branch on Central Boulevard opened May 15, 1994 and had been set to celebrate its 30th anniversary before last week’s events. The observance will be rescheduled at a later date, Guerra said.

Alejandra Gonzalez, a regular library user was using one of the computers in the digital media area getting her paperwork ready to go back to school next year.

Alejandra works Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in the digital media area of the Brownsville Public Library main branch at 2600 Central Blvd. (Gary Long | The Brownsville Herald)

A stay-at-home mom, she said coming to the Central branch is part of her daily routine after she gets the kids off to school and she missed not being able to come there while it was closed.

“It’s peaceful in here. … For me, the library is a safe place, so having it be closed, it was difficult,” she said. “My heart goes out to the family that lost their loved one.”

Juan Antonio Landin, originally from Matamoros but a longtime Brownsville resident, said he was at the library to print out some papers that Social Security was asking for.

Aqui les ayuden en todo, y les dicen lo que es. Por eso me gusta venir aqui. Y es gratis,” he said, meaning the library staff is very helpful with everything, explains what someone doesn’t understand, and it’s free.

The library is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday to Sunday.

The summer reading program starts June 3 and this year includes young adults and adults, Guerra said, encouraging public participation.