HRLR
Los Tocayos Carlos
Chapter 1
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All Chapter 1 Footnotes

Richard didn’t move. Wanda was pleading with the 911 dispatcher. “[C]an you have an officer come to 2602 South Padre Island Drive? I have a suspect with a—a knife inside the store . . . . He’s a Mexican. He’s standing right here at the counter.62

Richard heard fear in his sister’s voice. But he heard something else, too: expectation, even confidence. She believed that help would come soon.63

What came instead was a litany of questions from the dispatcher back at Wanda. The longer Richard listened, the angrier he got. “What’s he doing with the knife? Has he threatened you or anything? Huh? Ma’am? Where is he at right now?” “What does he look like?” And again, “What does he look like? “Is he a white male?” “Black?” “Hispanic?” “Tall? Short?” “Tall?” “Does he have the knife pulled out?” “Is it in his pocket?”64

Even before Wanda whispered that the Mexican man was “standing right here at the counter” and then said, “can’t talk,”65 Richard could tell that the man was right there, buying an eighty-five cent pack of cigarettes. He could hear Wanda telling the man, “Okay. This? Eighty-five.” Her voice quivered a little, but she managed to keep the pitch and volume normal.66

When she tried to answer the dispatcher’s questions, her voice went low, and her words were clipped. Her lips must have been barely moving, answering, “I don’t know.” “Not yet.” “Por que?” “Can’t talk.” “What?” “Right here.” “No.” “No.” “Yes.” “Un-huh.” “Yeah.”67 Richard could hear his sister’s poise collapsing, along with her confidence that there was a lifeline out that would save her.

When the 911 operator asked a second time whether the knife was out, Wanda’s voice for the first time rose in fear and exasperation: “Not ye-et!,” she said again.68 Every muscle in Richard’s body tightened. “Stop asking questions!,”69 he wanted to shout. “Send out a squad car. There’s time!”

Then it was done. Wanda gave up on the 911 operator and spoke directly to the man, begging for her life. “You want it? I’ll give it to you. I’m not gonna do nothing to you. Please!!!!” Then she screamed.70 Six unbearable seconds of wordless scuffling followed. The phone dropped. Wanda moaned.71

Then came an incessant dial tone, as the killer hung up the phone.72

Why, Richard wondered, didn’t they send out a cruiser first thing? And why did the guy stab her? She didn’t do anything to him. He didn’t even have to ask for the money. Wanda just offered it to him. It must have been all the questions, Richard thought. The man must have realized she was on the phone with the cops and gotten mad.73 But if he knew the cops were on to him, why not just run? Why take the time to hurt Wanda, scuffle with her, and then run? It made no sense.74

* * * * *

Forty minutes after Wanda’s call, the police closed the case with an arrest.75 They caught Carlos DeLuna in a residential neighborhood a few blocks east of the Sigmor.76 Sometime later, police officials gave TV stations the 911 tape, dramatizing the cops’ quick work.77

The stations played the tape over and over for days. And for months, they played it again every time something new happened in the case.78 Then Richard heard it twice more, alongside the jury, at DeLuna’s trial.79 That was five months after the crime.

Richard was infuriated that he first learned of his sister’s last words on TV, without warning, along with everyone else in Corpus Christi.80 When he showed up at the Sigmor station, the police wouldn’t tell him what “tragedy” had befallen his sister.81 But before he knew it, they were telling everyone else, in her own words.82 And for months afterward, every time he turned around it seemed, the tape was being played again, with no concern for the pain it brought him and his family.83

Police Dispatch Tape, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) at 08:09:30–8:10:27.

Where there are (minor) discrepancies between the transcript of the call on the police dispatch tape and in the trial transcript, the quotations in text here are from the latter. Police 911 Recording, Trial Trans., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 382–385.

For a comparison of all available transcripts of Wanda Lopez’s 911 call, see infra Chapter 13, note 154.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Richard Louis Vargas, Brother of Wanda Lopez, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 4, 2004) at 07:09:03–07:10:22 (“[The 911 tape] showed that [at] first, she was aware of her surroundings. She knew something was going to happen. And as scared as she was she didn’t make it look like she was calling the police.”).

Police Dispatch Tape, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) at 08:09:30–8:10:27;

Police 911 Recording, Trial Trans., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 382–85.

A transcript of the entire 911 conversation between Wanda Lopez and the police Dispatcher is presented infra Chapter 13, note 154 and accompanying text.

Police Dispatch Tape, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) at 00:00:58–00:01:01;

Police 911 Recording, Trial Trans., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 383 (“He’s a Mexican, he’s standing right here at the counter. . . . Can’t talk.”).

Police Dispatch Tape, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) at 00:01:05–00:01:09;

Police 911 Recording, Trial Trans., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 383.

Police Dispatch Tape, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) at 00:01:27–00;01;30;

Police 911 Recording, Trial Trans., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 383–84.

Police Dispatch Tape, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) at 00:01:24–00:01:27;

Police 911 Recording, Trial Trans., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 384.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rene Rodriguez, Lawyer for Wanda Lopez’s Family in Suit Against Diamond-Shamrock, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 8, 2005) at 05:46:53–05:47:36 (“They were asking her all these crazy questions and you can just, you could tell that it made her even more nervous because she was afraid that the guy knew that she was talking to the cops, like she was kind of saying yes or no. You could just tell she was very scared.”).

Police Dispatch Tape, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) at 00:01:42–00:01:44;

Police 911 Recording, Trial Trans., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 384.

In this one place, the contents of the 911 call reported in text come not from the transcription of the tape made when it was played at DeLuna’s trial, but from a transcription made by the Corpus Christi Police shortly after the crime took place—a transcription evidently made by listening directly to the police master recording of the 911 call, which probably had better resolution than the copy of the tape played at the trial. See Police Dispatch Tape, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) at 00:01:42–00:01:44.

The trial and other transcriptions of the 911 call are made off of a recording of a portion of the master tape, not off of the original master tape itself. Police recorded over the master tape shortly after the police made their direct transcription. See infra Chapter 2, notes 106–114 and accompanying text; infra Chapter 11, notes 195–202 and accompanying text; infra Chapter 13, notes 150–153 and accompanying text. The word “Please” followed by three exclamation points is found only in the transcription police made directly from the master tape. See generally infra Chapter 13, note 154 (cataloguing all of the discrepancies between the three available transcriptions of the 911 call).

Police Dispatch Tape, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) at 00:01:42–00:01:44;

Police 911 Recording, Trial Trans., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 384–85.

Police Dispatch Tape, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) at 00:01:48–00:01:49;

Trial Transcript, Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 385.

See Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rene Rodriguez, Lawyer for Wanda Lopez’s Family in Suit Against Diamond-Shamrock, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 8, 2005) at 05:48:04–05:48:34:

Yeah, well I think that probably her demeanor, to the guy, telegraphed that she was on the phone with the police or somebody. You know, in the tape, because you could hear, in the tape, she’s just answering questions, yes or no, that kind of stuff to the dispatcher, who has not even called to tell the cops to go [to the gas station] yet. Then he calls, and you could hear her screaming when he was stabbing her.”

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rene Rodriguez, Lawyer for Wanda Lopez’s Family in Suit Against Diamond-Shamrock, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 8, 2005) at 05:47:36–05:48:04, 05:52:27–05:55:17 (answering question about why he thinks the killer stabbed Wanda by saying: “I don’t know. I mean, she wasn’t doing anything to him, he didn’t ask for money.”; “I could never understand why he attacked her, other than he thought she was on the phone talking to the cops. I mean, I would think that if I was there to do no good, and the person behind the counter is on the phone with the police, I would run. I wouldn’t stay there and do something and then run.”).

See infra Chapter 2, notes 249–272 and accompanying text.

Mark Schauer, Corpus Christi Police Officer, C.C.P.D. Supplementary Report (Feb. 8, 1983) at 1;

see infra Chapter 2, notes 240–263 and accompanying text.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Richard Louis Vargas, Brother of Wanda Lopez, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 4, 2004) at 06:55:39 (“Yes, they started airing on air, making people aware of what had happened at the store.”).

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Richard Louis Vargas, Brother of Wanda Lopez, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 4, 2004) at 07:00:17 (describing how frequently the tape was played on TV: “Over and over. Every month at least twice or more. It was a highly publicized crime. A lot of people heard it.”).

Police 911 Recording, Trial Trans., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 382;

see infra Chapter 13, notes 13–15, 29–30, 154–161, 296–301 and accompanying text.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Richard Louis Vargas, Brother of Wanda Lopez, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 4, 2004) at 06:55:54–06:56:15 (“Something I never heard [before] that made me very furious was the 911 calls [the T.V. stations were playing].”).

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Richard Louis Vargas, Brother of Wanda Lopez, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 4, 2004) at 06:53:35 (“They just said something tragic has happened.”).

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Richard Louis Vargas, Brother of Wanda Lopez, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 4, 2004) at 06:55:54–06:56:15 (“Something I never heard [before] that made me very furious was the 911 calls [the T.V. stations were playing].”).

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Richard Louis Vargas, Brother of Wanda Lopez, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 4, 2004) at 07:00:17 (describing how frequently the tape was played on TV: “Over and over. Every month at least twice or more. It was a highly publicized crime. A lot of people heard it.”).

Chapter 1
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