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Tuesday, March 30, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 119

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Are killers with badges cops, or are they still killers?

Brandon Moeller

I was up at an ungodly hour for a college student Thursday. I was dressed and awake at 9 a.m. and was sitting in a court room waiting for a grumpy bailiff and a tired judge to hear the day's cases. It was Harris County Criminal Court-at-Law Judge Neel Richardson's court, and I had gotten two hours of sleep the night before.

Instead of the usual "All rise, County Court No. 8 is in session..." coming out of the bailiff's mouth, he seemed even grumpier. "Those of you who want to stay can stay, but you must remain silent because the closing statements of an on-going trial will be going on before we start any other cases today," the bailiff stated.

I made a bad decision that day. I decided to walk outside the court room, brushing against several television cameramen, and wait outside for my lawyer to get there. I decided to miss a piece of history I didn't even know I was missing.

If only I had kept up with the news, I would have known to stay in there. It was the closing arguments where a jury of twelve Americans found former Houston police Officer James Willis innocent of a misdemeanor.

A misdemeanor? A misdemeanor ain't nothing. This guy was an accesory to murder. A misdemeanor charge justifies killing a person, as long as you wear a badge. I am currently being charged with a misdemeanor, and I didn't even do anything.

Pedro Oregón shouldn't have died in the early morning of July 12. He sure as hell shouldn't have had nine shots fired in his back, either.

This whole ordeal scares me. Six cops knocked on the Oregóns' apartment that morning. When Pedro's brother, Rogelio, opened the door, the informant that tipped the police off laid on the floor, making it impossible for Rogelio to close the door.

Six Houston police officers then approached Rogelio, according to their testimony, to get Rogelio to sign consent for the apartment to be searched. They had no arrest or search warrants. They assumed that an average American would allow six cops to tear up his apartment, looking for drugs that weren't even there.

They presumed that he wouldn't be scared out of his mind when a drunk informant (who was also doped up on crack cocaine) laid on his floor, blocking his ability to shut the door to his own habitat, a right he clearly had.

This was staged, folks. What would you do? I'd be scared as hell, and I would probably do exactly what Rogelio did. Run and hide in my dark living room. That's what the cops wanted him to do, because in their mind -- and the law's -- that justified them barging into the apartment, where they found and killed Pedro in his own bedroom.

Twelve shots were fired. The first shot was fired from a police officer, injuring another police officer. It's sadistic irony, but the other cops believed Pedro fired the first shot, giving them enough reason to fire eleven shots into Pedro, killing him on his bed. Pedro had a gun nearby, but it was not fired, analysts discovered later.

All six cops were fired from the Houston Police Department. Justice? Well, definitely the first step towards justice, if "justice" is a word that is even relevant in today's society. 

Willis was not one of the cops who killed Pedro, but if anybody, he was the one who was the mastermind behind the staged bust. What does this tell those of us who can see through all the bureaucracy and lies? It is all right to kill a man in a house where you don't belong if you have a badge, but it is not all right to be the mastermind behind a flimsy staged bust. That's why Willis was tried for a misdemeanor. But he was found innocent.

So let me re-phrase what we have learned from all of this. It is all right to kill a man, after manipulating and scaring his brother, because it is clearly not right to be accused of selling drugs by a drunken, drug addict on crack..

Why don't they put Pedro's killers on trial? Does the badge protect them from killing innocent men? Clearly. That's their job -- Protect and serve and occasionally murder an innocent man because no one will find out about it.

But we did, and it's a shame that our defense force has lowered itself to the level of manipulation in order to get a case, even when a case doesn't exist. No drugs were found in the Oregóns' apartment. 

And the murderous ex-cops are still free men.
 

Moeller, a freshman communication major 
whose column appears every Thursday,
can be reached at brandonmoeller@hotmail.com.
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