HRLR
Los Tocayos Carlos
Chapter 11
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All Chapter 11 Footnotes

Although no recording of the first conversation survived, both Rodriguez and TV reporter Karen Boudrie, who covered both the DeLuna and Vargas trials, helped the out-of-town investigators reconstruct it later on:236

"Is he in the store?," the female 911 operator asked Wanda.

"No, he's outside."

"He's not doing anything to hurt you?"

"No."

"Call back if he does anything, if he comes inside."237

Wanda hung up and waited. Customers came and went.238 Only then did a man she suspected of having a knife come in.

She called back. The 911 operator was on another call and let the phone ring. Finally, Escochea, the dispatcher, picked it up.239

To Escochea the call seemed "routine" until Wanda started screaming and he realized "something had gone wrong." 240 At first, he was put off by what he thought was Wanda's "attitude."241 Not realizing that she had called before and been disregarded, Escochea didn't understand why she was so impatient when he began peppering her with his own set of questions.

Years later, when Rene Rodriguez described what he'd learned to the outside investigators, he was still angry:

When she called, telling them she was at the Shamrock, the dispatcher, the police, everybody knew where she was, because of Wolfy's next door and that two-story naked lady there all lit up next to the freeway. Everyone that used the freeway saw it every day. They knew it was a high crime area. They knew all that! But they tell her, call us back if it looks serious.242

Some little minimum wage girl calling, concerned about something happening next to a topless place at night. She's trapped behind the counter, no place to run. No big deal to them. Then when she called back, they ask crazy questions instead of [doing] something!243

Rodriguez believed that most people would feel the same way and that the police knew it. When he started the trial against Shamrock, uniformed officers and detectives came in and watched, sometimes several at once.244 Rodriguez knew that was out of the ordinary—that some kind of message was being sent.245 Cops only show up in court for civil trials when they're being sued. That's how the cops knew Rodriguez. He'd made a good living until then defending cops in brutality cases.246

The police were there, Rodriguez believed, to make sure he didn't use the trial to embarrass the Department.247 "They were there," Rodriguez said, "to make sure I focused on the Shamrock and not too much on them."248 Rodriguez did what he had to do for the Vargases, and they got a good settlement before the trial ended—one of the first ever from a convenience store company for putting an employee in danger.249 The law protects police from paying damages in cases like this, so Rodriguez didn't sue them.250 Still, it galled him that they showed up in court to try to intimidate him.251 He didn't represent cops much after that.252

* * * * *

When Hector De Peña found out what really happened to Wanda Lopez, he felt that the same desire to protect the Police Department from embarrassment had influenced the DeLuna investigation and its aftermath.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Karen Boudrie-Evers, Corpus Christi Television Reporter, in Dallas, Texas (Feb. 28, 2005) at 03:07:11–3:10:16:

I remember during the civil suit [brought by the Wanda Lopez's family against Diamond Shamrock], at the filing, that some of the points made were that there were two phone calls that Wanda made to 911. And that the dispatcher, and perhaps the police, failed to respond in a manner or quickly enough or take it seriously. Just telling her, "Call us back if there's more trouble," was kind of the answer she got initially. There was, allegedly, some negligence by the police department and the dispatcher. Again, this was the civil suit . . . . The prosecution played the 911 tape[] of Wanda Jean Lopez's call to police [on] the night she was killed. Of course, that made the headlines, it was such a compelling part of the prosecution's case. But during the civil suit, that was brought up again, and I remember we got to listen to the tapes again. The initial phone call, I remember Wanda is saying, "There's a suspicious . . . ." People outside the store told Wanda—and this is what she's relaying to the police—that there's a guy out there with a knife, drinking a beer and kind of playing with the knife. "What should I do? I think he might want to come in and rob me. And the people told me, the people outside who saw him said I should call the police." And they said, "Well, what's he doing now?" She said, "Well, he's just still standing outside. He hasn't come in the store." And I think I recall they said, the dispatcher tells Wanda, "If he gets closer or something else happens, or if he comes in, or if he threatens you"—I'm not sure of the exact words—"then call us back." Rather than dispatching a unit to say, "We should check this out for you," they tell her to call back. So she hangs up and at that point you hear the second call, and the second call says, "He's in the store, and he's coming towards me."

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Hector De Peña, Jr., Trial Lawyer for Carlos DeLuna, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Feb. 23, 2005) at 12:31:20–12:31:40 ("Apparently, my understanding was, that more than one phone call was made to the dispatcher asking that a police officer be called to the spot.");

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Hector De Peña, Jr., Trial Lawyer for Carlos DeLuna, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Feb. 23, 2005) at 12:33:05–12:34:13:

We did not learn about the first phone call until, you know, after the criminal trial had been held. . . . I believe . . . Basically, I think I learned it through the publication that came out in the press as the [civil] case [brought by the Wanda Lopez's family against Diamond Shamrock] was being, as the case proceeded in the course of its trial. I think it was a result of the newspaper reporting what was transpiring in the courtroom and what the testimony was. And it was, I believe, through the newspapers' description of some of the testimony that I learned that apparently not just one phone call had been made, which was the copy of the recording we had, but there had been an earlier phone call asking for assistance from the police department.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Hector De Peña, Jr., Trial Lawyer for Carlos DeLuna, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Feb. 23, 2005) at 12:04:44–12:05:10:

The young lady [Wanda Lopez], having been warned of somebody being out, you know, standing around watching, apparently tried to contact the police. And it was during the course of this, that she kept calling, telling them to send someone out, they kept trying to get the girl to give a description, prior to the time of the arrival of any kind of police unit. And she kept saying, well, "he's closer," or, "he's here," and finally she said, "He's inside," or something along those lines."

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Hector De Peña, Jr., Trial Lawyer for Carlos DeLuna, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Feb. 23, 2005) at 13:14:15–13:16:06:

Q. And then subsequently, as a result of the civil suit [brought by Wanda Lopez's family against Diamond Shamrock], you learned that there was even an earlier phone call that had also been preserved and was available at that point.

A. Correct.

Q. . . . [W]hat did you learn, even after the criminal case, regarding the tape?

A. . . . that there was apparently more than one phone call that was made to the dispatcher, and my recollection being that I learned this through the publication of [information about] the civil trial that came out in the papers.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Richard Louis Vargas, Brother of Wanda Lopez, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 4, 2004) at 06:57:13–06:57:20 ("I believe there was more than one 911 call.")

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rene Rodriguez, Lawyer for Wanda Lopez Family in Suit Against Diamond-Shamrock, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 8, 2004) at 5:48:34–5:49:20:

[S]he hears from a customer outside that there is a man out there with a knife. . . . She calls up the police and says, 'Hey, there's somebody outside . . . a scruffy looking man outside with a knife.' And then, they say, 'If he comes inside,' . . . 'if he does anything . . . call us back.' . . . And then she calls . . . back, and she's trying to hide the fact that she's on the phone with the police . . . when this scruffy looking man with a knife is there.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rene Rodriguez, Lawyer for Wanda Lopez Family in Suit Against Diamond-Shamrock, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 8, 2004) at 5:51:22–5:52:13:

[A] customer came in to tell her that there was someone outside with a knife, and they looked like [kind] of scruffy. She called the cops, they basically tell her, the dispatcher tells her, 'just call back, he's not doing anything to hurt you?' 'No, no.' 'Call back if you see anything unusual.' Next thing she knows the guy's coming in, she sees the knife so she calls, but she can't really say anything, and they start asking her all these crazy questions, about, you know, describing the fellow. And the next thing you know it, in the middle of all this she starts screaming, and I'm assuming that's when he's cutting her, with the knife;

see also Transcribed Videotape Interview with Karen Boudrie-Evers, Corpus Christi Television Reporter, in Dallas, Texas(Feb. 28, 2005) at 03:08:04–3:10:16.

George Aguirre, Witness to Events Outside Shamrock Gas Station, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Neuces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 18, 1983) at 231–32 ("Q. When you left, you actually left the station, were three people in that Sigmor Service Station along with the clerk? A. Yes. The two were getting ready to leave, they were paying for gas.");

Closing Statement of Steve Schiwetz, Prosecutor at Trial of Carlos DeLuna, Texas v. DeLuna, No. 84-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 20, 1983) at 477 ("[Aguirre] . . . testified there was two other people in the store at the time he started to leave and he saw the man he had seen outside start walking in as he was leaving, which puts three people in the store at the time that Mr. Aguirre is leaving. There were two people standing up by the counter, and then the man who was walking in.");

see also George Aguirre, Witness to Events Outside Shamrock Gas Station, Pretrial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Neuces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. June 20, 1983) at 17–18 ("A. And so I signed my ticket and I got it and I started walking out when I was about halfway to my van, I saw him [the man outside] . . . .").

James S. Liebman, Outline of the DeLuna Investigation (Nov. 5, 2005) at 68, 131 n.227 ("As luck would have it, when Lopez did call back, dispatcher Escochea, not the 911 operator, answered the phone (though it was not his job to do so), preventing Lopez from picking where her prior call left off."; "Escochea told our investigators that he was a dispatcher, not an operator, and was not supposed to answer the phone. He only did so, and took Lopez's second call, because the light on one of the 911 lines on his phone kept flashing for such a long time without being picked up that he decided to help out.").

Cindy Tumiel, Convicted Killer Executed After Courts Reject Appeals, Corpus Christi Caller-Times (Dec. 7, 1989) (quoting Escochea, by then a Los Angeles Police Department dispatcher):

[Escochea] recalls the event as one of the most memorable in his 13 years as a dispatcher. Lopez had called police to report that a man with a knife was inside the store. "It seemed like a routine call up until the time she started screaming. That's when I knew something had gone wrong" . . . "It wasn't until a police unit arrived [that Escochea knew Wanda Lopez was] wounded." . . . "That's when we found out she was injured," he said. :That's when our adrenalin got pumping. We had every unit in the city looking for him (DeLuna)."

See supra Chapter 2, note 118 and accompanying text.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rene Rodriguez, Lawyer for Wanda Lopez Family in Suit Against Diamond-Shamrock, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 8, 2004) at 05:49:53–05:52:13:

[W]hen she [Wanda] first called . . . . And I remember also that because of where this place [the Sigmor Shamrock] was at, police would come every once and a while and would get off and have coffee and knew Wanda. So, a lot of these cops knew that she was alone. So when she called, telling them where she was at and what she saw, I mean, the dispatcher, the police, everybody know where she was at, because of that two story lady [advertising Wolfy's] that was right, facing Shamrock. Everybody knew. Everyone that uses the freeway sees it everyday, or they used to see it everyday. So they knew where she was. They knew it was a high crime area. They knew there had been a lot of calls. They knew all that! They tell her, call us back if it looks serious. Like it was no big deal. Some little minimum wage girl calling, concerned about something that's happening at eleven-o-clock at night in front of a topless place. And it was no big deal to them. And then she when she called back, again, they were asking all these crazy questions instead of telling her to do something. Or, you know, I mean, I don't know where she could have gone because, like I said, she was trapped. There was no place to run. . . . . [A] customer came in to tell her that there was someone outside with a knife, and they [the man outside] looked like [kind] of scruffy. She called the cops, they basically tell her, the dispatcher tells her, "just call back, he's not doing anything to hurt you?" "No, no." "Call back if you see anything unusual." Next thing she knows the guy's coming in, she sees the knife so she calls, but she can't really say anything, and they start asking her all these crazy questions, about, you know, describing the fellow. And the next thing you know it, in the middle of all this she starts screaming, and I'm assuming that's when he's cutting her, with the knife.

See Steve Mills & Maurice Possley, 'I Didn't Do It. But I Know Who Did', Chi. Trib., June 25, 2006, available at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-tx-1-story,0,653915.story?page=5 ("Aguirre went inside to warn Lopez . . . . She said she would call the police, and Aguirre . . . left. When Lopez did call, a dispatcher said officers could do nothing unless the man came inside. Minutes later, when he did, Lopez redialed police, and dispatcher Jesse Escochea took the call.").

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rene Rodriguez, Lawyer for Wanda Lopez Family in Suit Against Diamond-Shamrock, in Corpus Christi, Texas (December 8, 2004) at 05:49:53–05:52:13.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rene Rodriguez, Lawyer for Wanda Lopez Family in Suit Against Diamond-Shamrock, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 8, 2004) at 6:01:13–6:03:13:

I remember during the trial, we started the trial and stuff and they [the police] were coming by a lot which was unusual for them to come and sit down and listen to it. I think they were worried about the bad press. . . . During the civil trial, you know, throughout, I think it lasted about a week, during the course of that trial, police officers or detectives, would come in and watch. And I know that a lot of it was, at some point I knew a lot of these cops. They were concerned about the embarrassment it would cause the police department. And they wanted to make sure that I was going to focus completely on the Shamrock and not too much on them.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rene Rodriguez, Lawyer for Wanda Lopez Family in Suit Against Diamond-Shamrock, in Corpus Christi, Texas (December 8, 2004) at 05:49:53–6:03:13.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Karen Boudrie-Evers, Corpus Christi Television Reporter, in Dallas, Texas (Feb. 28, 2005) at 03:13:38–03:13:55 (discussing Rodriguez's ties to the police department and conversations with him at the time of his litigation of the Vargas case against Diamond Shamrock in which he noted concerns that the lawsuit would put the police department in a bad light);

James S. Liebman, Outline of the DeLuna Investigation (Nov. 5, 2005) at 66 ("Even so, Rodriguez reports that when the trial of the case occurred, many uniformed officers attended, which Rodriguez (who frequently represents the police union and police officers) understood as a show of concern that the Department's work not be criticized at trial.").

See supra note 244.

See supra note 244.

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rene Rodriguez, Lawyer for Wanda Lopez Family in Suit Against Diamond-Shamrock, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 8, 2004) at 05:43:50–05:44:10 ("[T]hey [the Vargas family] got some money. . . . It was substantial, but I remember it was supposed to be a confidential settlement, but I don't remember. It was a lot. It was a lot."

Transcribed Videotape Interview with Rene Rodriguez, Lawyer for Wanda Lopez Family in Suit Against Diamond-Shamrock, in Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 8, 2004) at 06:01:42–06:04:03 ("I wanted to [sue the Corpus Christi Police Department], and I thought they were just as culpable as Shamrock. But, in our society, the government has all sort of immunities and protections and they make it almost impossible [to get damages in a lawsuit against the government]."; "I considered suing the Corpus Christi Police Department because I thought they were just as at fault at the time because of their non-reaction to the first telephone call, and even the second telephone call. They didn't push the button to send the troops in until after she started screaming.").

See supra notes 244–248.

See James S. Liebman, Outline of the DeLuna Investigation (Nov. 5, 2005) at 66:

[A] year after DeLuna was convicted, the Vargas family successfully sued the Shamrock station for negligence—and their attorney, Rene Rodriguez, believes that the police were at least as negligent (though laws immunizing police agencies and officers from damages kept him from suing them). Even so, Rodriguez reports that when the trial of the case occurred, many uniformed officers attended, which Rodriguez (who [had] frequently represent[ed] the police union and police officers) understood as a show of concern that the Department's work not be criticized at trial—as it reportedly had been criticized in the press.

Chapter 11
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