After dispatcher Escochea signaled to patrol cars that a robbery and assault had occurred and that the attacker had escaped to the north of the Sigmor on foot,178 cop cars flooded the area. Within minutes after Wanda collapsed just outside the store, Escochea had every available unit in the city limits—over twenty—looking for the man who stabbed her.179
One of the first to the scene was a Sheriff’s Department Constable, Ruben Rivera. He and his partner, Carolyn Vargas, were driving back downtown after serving papers in a civil case.180 They detoured to the Sigmor after hearing Escochea’s emergency call.181 Rivera remembered a mosaic of officers: wildlife rangers, sheriffs’ deputies, city police, and state highway patrolmen, as well as plain-clothed vice squad officers in unmarked cars.182 “[T]here was everything out there . . . combing the neighborhood.”183
See, e.g., Police Dispatch Tape, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) at 8:10:42 (tape at 00:02:01), 8:13:09 (tape at 00:04:28) (“2602 South Padre. Armed robbery in progress.”; “[I] have an armed robbery, 27, just occurred. 2602 S.P.I.D. The Hispanic male, gray sweatshirt, northbound on foot, to the rear. All units in the area.”).
See Police Dispatch Tape, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983) at 8:13:09 (tape at 00:04:28) (“All units in the area.”);
Jesse Escochea, Corpus Christi Police Dispatcher, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 15, 1983) at 33 (“I had about 15 to 20 units in the area looking for the subject. . . . I had every available unit within the city limits at that location.”).
The dispatch tape reveals that 33 patrol units took part in the manhunt, in order of arrival: 143, 140, 279, 153, 149, 126, 155, 151, 131, 121, 152, 135, 157, 120, 119, 115, 113, 141, 403, 443, 125, 123, 139, 425 (vice), 116, 415 (vice), 145, 408 (vice), 219, 158, 185, 110, 154. See Police Dispatch Tape, Corpus Christi Police Dep’t (Feb. 4, 1983).
Ruben Rivera, Nueces County Deputy Constable, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 15, 1983) at 81–82 (“I had a partner with me. . . . A female officer constable, Deputy Constable Carolyn Vargas.”; “We had delivered some civil papers over in the area of Ennis Joslin Road, which is past our precinct, but they were urgent and we had them in our possession and we needed to deliver them, we were running from that location.”).
Ruben Rivera, Nueces County Deputy Constable, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 15, 1983) at 83 (“Q. Where did you go when you got the call on the police radio? When you decided to respond to that call, where did you go? A. We went to the immediate area of the Sigmor Station or the neighborhood immediately behind it.”).
Transcribed Videotape Interview with Ruben Rivera, Nueces County Deputy Constable, in Robstown, Texas (Dec. 7, 2004) at 02:06:43 (“[T]here was a lot of officers out there, there was Texas Parks & Wildlife, and there was Sheriff’s deputies, and there was city police, and there was highway patrolmen, there was everything out there. And we were combing the neighborhood.”);
see also Ruben Rivera, Nueces County Deputy Constable, Trial Test., Texas v. DeLuna, No. 83-CR–194-A (Nueces Cty., 28th Dist. Tex. July 15, 1983) at 86 (“Q. When you say ‘quite a few,’ could you give me a rough estimate of how many you saw? A. I would say roughly anywhere between ten to—ten to twelve different police units, city police units. Q. Okay, that you actually saw? A. That I actually saw. I saw at least six to eight units, sir.”).
Transcribed Videotape Interview with Ruben Rivera, Nueces County Deputy Constable, in Robstown, Texas (Dec. 7, 2004) at 02:06:43;
see Tamara Theiss’s Notes on Interview with Olivia Escobedo, Corpus Christi Police Detective in Wanda Lopez and Dahlia Sauceda Murders (Feb. 27, 2005) at 2:
I became the lead investigator on the Wanda Lopez case because I just happened to be working as the lead investigator on the night shift when her 911 call came in. I remember that I had only been at work for a few minutes when her call came in. I recall that it was a “robbery in progress” which justified sending an investigator and a lot of police to look for the suspect. I remember that Sigmor gas station.
When I got out to the gas station, there were police cars everywhere. The neighborhood was literally saturated with police, fanning out looking for Mr. DeLuna. Mr. DeLuna had been reported by witnesses to have run out behind the gas station in a northern direction, right into the residential neighborhood behind the gas station.
. . . I remember that there were police cars everywhere, at the station and all around the neighborhood around the station, looking for DeLuna. I could hear their progress on my radio.