AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas state senator who leads the committee in charge of state prisons said an informant reported to authorities that a prison gang was trying to kill him.
State Sen. John Whitmire said he was told last week that an informant reported a "hit" against him due to complaints about the conditions on death row. Whitmire said that according to the informant, the Mexican Mafia prison gang was plotting to kill him as he ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant.
The Houston Democrat is the longtime chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.
"Apparently, the Mexican Mafia holds me responsible for conditions on death row, and they're going to punish me for their incarceration," Whitmire said in an interview Monday night.
The Austin American-Statesman first reported the threat.
The news comes one week after Colorado corrections chief Tom Clements was gunned down at his home. The suspected gunman, Evan Ebel, died in a shootout in Texas.
Whitmire has been threatened before, including one 2008 incident in which a death row inmate used a smuggled cellphone to call him. While Whitmire joked Monday that he was going to avoid all Mexican restaurants for the time being, he said he took all death threats seriously, particularly in the wake of the Colorado incident.
"You read about that innocent public official being shot in his home, at his door, you've got to take the threat serious," Whitmire said.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice inspector general Bruce Toney says authorities are investigating the allegation, but declined to comment until the investigation was complete.