Late on the night of Nov. 27, I ran across the story of a Marine who was attacked by four armed men in the driveway of his Houston home. His wife and 3-year-old daughter had just gone back into the house. With a gun to the back of his head, he somehow managed to pull his legally owned firearm and fire, driving the assailants away and escaping harm.
Intrigued, I set about finding him in the most efficient way possible—I searched for him on Facebook.
There was only one match in Houston. I sent him a friend request and a message. Ten minutes later, he called my cell phone.
Alexander Borrego lives in Spring, Texas, with his wife, Priscilla, and children Amber, 13; Christopher, 10; and Zaylee, 3. Spring borders Houston on the north. While the Borregos’ neighborhood is newer, the surroundings have earned a rough reputation: “The neighborhood that we’re in is called Greenspoint,” he said. “I’ve heard it called Gunspoint.”
“Before I pulled my weapon, I thought, ‘We’re all going to die right here,’” Borrego said. “Because there’s no way that they’re going to get into this house.”
Borrego was an active-duty Marine from 2005-2009, where he first served as a welder, then was attached to an amphibious assault vehicle (aav) unit. As an aav mechanic, “I was actually pretty lucky. It’s a tank that’s able to float on the water. Those things are awesome,” he said.
Exactly how did that make him lucky, I asked? “There’s no water in the desert,” he replied. I imagined him grinning over the phone.
Borrego is now a wind turbine commissioner, which sounds like a government job, but is not. “We climb the wind turbines before they start them up. My job is to run through the whole machine and make sure that it is working before we turn it over to the customer.
“We have to climb the tower. These things can go from 285 feet to 365 feet. I love the job. At first, I thought I was going to be afraid of heights, but you get used to it. You do what you have to do.”
“You do what you have to do.” Borrego uses this phrase often. It intimates that not doing what you have to do will incur undesirable (perhaps even fatal) consequences—whether it’s under a 29-ton tracked vehicle in a pounding surf, or atop a 300-foot tower in a strong wind.
On the night of Nov. 24, it was in the driveway of his family home.
Around 10:30 p.m., Borrego was sitting in his driveway with his feet up. “The weather has been nice out here in Houston, and anybody that knows Houston knows it’s muggy at times.”
The garage door was open. Son Christopher wasn’t home that evening; it was just Alexander, his wife and daughters. “I was waiting on my wife to come out; my little girl was outside playing and she decided to go in the house. I remember … I was bugging my wife to hurry and come out so that we could just hang out, converse and enjoy the weather.
“I’m out there in the front yard. I always have my pistol around me when I’m in the house. I don’t carry it on me, but for whatever reason on this night, and I do not know why, a little voice in my head told me to grab my pistol and bring it out with me.
“I have a Kimber .45. It’s pretty heavy, kind of uncomfortable to carry around if I don’t have it in my holster. I was wearing sweats and I did not want to carry it, so I set it down next to me.
“I guess it’s just the Marine in me; I remember thinking, ‘If somebody comes up to you, are you going to have enough time to reach for that? Are they going to see it? Are they going to grab it first?’
“I told myself, ‘Just grab it and put it in the front pocket of your hoodie.’”
Borrego’s little girl had just walked inside when he got rushed by the four thugs.
“I got rushed,” he said. “I looked up and saw them coming toward me, and the first thing I saw was a pistol. It was a black pistol.
“The guy ran behind me and put it to the back of my head. He told me stand up. At that point, I saw the rest of the guys who were with him.”
The Borrego family, safe at home: Amber, Christopher, Priscilla, Alexander and Zaylee.
Borrego’s garage door was open. He remembers thinking that he needed to get them away from the garage door, which leads directly into the house where his family was.
“I stand up and I go toward the front door, which we keep locked,” he said. “They’re pulling on me, they’re trying to get me to the garage. They’re trying to walk me in the house. I just needed enough time to distract them, get them towards the front door. I’m trying to fight, and they’re pulling me one way and I’m pulling in the other direction. It was at that point I put my hand in the front pocket of my hoodie to grab my pistol.
“They’re getting frustrated. They start pushing the pistol further and further into the back of my head. I already had my hand on my weapon. I remember asking them, ‘Do you guys really want to do this?’ They weren’t answering any of my questions. They were just talking at me, not talking with me.”
For Borrego, the episode had gone on too long. “I didn’t want my family to see any of it, and remembered thinking that it needed to stop right now.
“Before I pulled my weapon, I thought, ‘We’re all going to die right here,’” Borrego said. “Because there’s no way that they’re going to get into this house. I turned toward the biggest threat, which was the pistol that was in the back of my head.”
The left-handed Borrego swiveled clockwise, sweeping with his right hand. “I swatted the pistol away from my head. I anticipated a shot somewhere in the body. I just knew I couldn’t be shot in the head because that would instantly take me out of the fight.
“I pulled the gun out and immediately shot at the guy that had the pistol to my head. He was the one that I knew for a fact had a pistol. I don’t know who else around me had one. I only saw his.
“He didn’t go down after the first shot; the second shot that I fired made him run.
“As soon as I shot him, his buddies took off on him. He was trailing, like he couldn’t keep up with them. They had left him—they had left him to die.”
It’s notable that Borrego betrays no malice toward his attackers—only contempt for anyone who would leave a man behind to die.
From inside the house, Priscilla was unaware of the commotion until she heard shots. Her first thought was, “Where are the kids?” After seeing they were all safe inside, she ran out the garage to see her husband chasing the four criminals down the street.
Borrego chased the assailants about half a block. “I thought he was going to drop in the street. From where I am at to the end of the block where he turned is a pretty good distance. And I remember thinking that he wasn’t going to make it that far.”
Breathing heavily in the street, Borrego suddenly realized he was too far from home: “I didn’t know how many there were,” he recalls. “I needed to go back and check on my family.” He made sure his family was safe, and went to walk the perimeter of the house. When he returned inside, Priscilla was on the phone with the police.
Borrego’s job keeps him up in the air ... and away from home for weeks at a time.
Borrego cleared his weapon and left it open on a table in the garage.
“When the police arrived, they asked where my weapon was and I told them it was in the garage. Before each cop or detective spoke to me, the first thing out of their mouth was, ‘Hey, I want to tell you: Good job. You did good.’
“I guess they were trying to comfort me, but … I think I did what any man would do for his family.”
In other words, he did what he had to do.
A few minutes before the attack, a neighbor’s security camera caught the four young men walking down the sidewalk toward the Borrego home. After the failed attack, it caught them sprinting back up the street, in the opposite direction.
Borrego later learned from news reports that, along with his questionable friends, the man he had shot had run to his mother’s house. On the way, they were intercepted by a patrol car. They told the officer they had been shot at by someone in a black car in a drive-by.
“Apparently, these guys had been wanted in other crimes. They were looking for these guys already and they had been unable to catch them,” he said.
“I think I was targeted because I was outside by myself, but other than that, no, not for any specific reason. It was just random. They thought I was prey, but I wasn’t.” At this point, Borrego allows himself a nervous laugh.
“I am my family’s first and only line of defense. If they get past me, then they have my world, and they have everything that makes me, me.”
After the police and neighbors left, and the concerned phone calls had been returned, Alexander and Priscilla talked into the night. “The girls were comfortable enough to go to sleep. My thing is to make sure that my family knows that they are safe. I don’t want them to change anything. I just need them to know that I’m right here for them. Go to school, do what you’ve been doing. They’re kids; they shouldn’t be thinking about things like that. They need to go to school and have fun.”
But the attack, and the possible consequences, weighed heavily on Borrego.
“I literally got no sleep that night,” he said. “I did not sleep until Saturday night, when I slept about two to three hours.
“All these questions came up. What if I would have frozen up? What if I didn’t do anything? What if I didn’t have my gun on me? What if, when that guy came up, he would have shot me right then and there, without even saying anything? What happens if I got scared and didn’t do anything? Would they have taken me in the house?”
The next words come hard for him: “I don’t even like thinking … what if they just tried to, you know … I have a teenage daughter in the house. What if … and my wife, you know. I don’t … I don’t know what could have happened, you know. They could have tied us up, took everything they wanted, and maybe shot us all in the head. All of that started running through my head, like the worst things imaginable.”
Soon, however, the Marine in him reasserted himself. “The one thing we’re always taught is knowing your surroundings at all times. Watch for threats; Know what’s around you. Be prepared at all times.
“I am my family’s first and only line of defense. If they get past me, then they have my world, and they have everything that makes me, me.
“For me and my family, I will always be ready. You just do what you have to do for family.”
There it is again: Seven single-syllable words that define Borrego’s character: You do what you have to do. No one else is there to do it for you. You don’t have to like it. Suck it up. Get it done.
“Of course, I never want anything like this to happen,” he said. “I’ve never, ever wanted this for anybody. You hear about home invasions and tying up the family … all these horrible things on the news. I remember asking myself: How would I act in a situation like that? What would I do? What would be my first thought? How would I act?