Pubdate: Fri, 21 Dec 2001
Source: Austin American-Statesman (TX)
Copyright: 2001 Austin American-Statesman
Author: Jonathon Osborne


After Suspect Dies In Shootout, Critics Question Need For Surprise Busts

The shootouts were almost a year apart, but they took place in the same 
part of town - Del Valle - and under the same set of circumstances - a drug 
raid. Both times, children were inside the mobile homes when SWAT teams 
showed up at the door. And both raids ended in death.

In February, the victim was the law officer, Travis County sheriff's Deputy 
Keith Ruiz. On Thursday, it was the suspect, 19-year-old Antonio Martinez.

Although the sheriff's office has said little about the circumstances of 
Thursday's raid, the known similarities between the two incidents already 
have fueled an argument that surprise drug raids on private homes are an 
unnecessary and far too dangerous means of enforcing the law.

Sheriff's spokesman Roger Wade said the raids are inescapable: to make the 
best case, deputies must make the arrest where the drugs are being kept.

"We'd love to call them up and say, 'Come on down here, and bring your 
dope.' " Wade said. "But that's not realistic or logical. We need to keep 
doing what we're doing."

Martinez died at Brackenridge Hospital three minutes before 6:30 a.m. 
Thursday from a gunshot wound suffered when deputies stormed a mobile home 
on Cornflower Circle in Southeast Travis County.

Deputies arrested the home's owner, 28-year-old Arturo Alvarez, but are 
still working on the charges against him, which likely will include the 
possession and distribution of a controlled substance, Wade said.

"Narcotics were found at the house," Wade said. "As to what type or how 
much, we're still working on that."

Wade said Alvarez's wife and as many as four children were at home when 
deputies knocked on the door early Thursday.

"We took appropriate measures to make sure they didn't get hurt," he said, 
but he would not elaborate.

The details of the raid, including who fired first and how many shots were 
fired, were still fuzzy later Thursday. Sheriff's deputies and internal 
affairs investigators spent most of the day interviewing witnesses, 
including members of the county's SWAT team and the Capital Area Drug Task 
Force, a multicounty agency that assisted with the raid.

Almost a year ago, the tables were turned, and a late-night drug raid in a 
nearby trailer park ended with the death of Ruiz, a 36-year-old husband and 

Drugs were found during that raid, too.

According to court documents, Ruiz, a member of the county's SWAT team, was 
attempting to break down the door of Edwin Delamora's manufactured home 
during the Feb. 15 raid when the 21-year-old shot at deputies through a 
small diamond-shaped window in the door.

One bullet, the documents say, struck Ruiz in the shoulder - which was not 
covered by his bulletproof vest - and perforated his aorta. Delamora's wife 
and two children were asleep in the home when the raid started. Delamora 
was charged with capital murder.

Violence could have been avoided in both incidents had uniformed deputies 
made the arrests during the day and away from the homes, said Ann del 
Llano, spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union's Texas Police 
Accountability Project.

"It doesn't make sense that law enforcement can't make the drug case unless 
they find the person at the home with the drugs at the moment," del Llano said.

"They can arrest the person and then execute a search warrant in a safe 
circumstance . . . while the person's not barred up in their home ready to 
shoot," she said. "The sad part is, you're not only risking the citizen's 
life but the officer's life, too. We don't need any more officers dead in 
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