Pubdate: Sat, 13 Mar 2004
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2004 Amarillo Globe-News
Author: Jessica Raynor
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


TULIA - Tulia residents want to go on with their lives. They want to go to 
church, go to work and go to school without negative clouds of public 
opinion hovering overhead.

Even after hearing the news of a $5 million settlement by the city of 
Amarillo related to the tainted 1999 drug bust in their town, they're 
worried their opinions could add lightning to the storm.

"I don't want my kids getting beat up at school," said Brenda Raymond of 
Tulia, explaining why she wouldn't comment further.

A woman at a local video store also refused comment, worried that if she 
said anything in an interview, no one would come to her business.

The settlement includes payment to the 45 people who were arrested or 
imprisoned on the basis of one man's testimony. It also calls for the 
disbandment of the Panhandle Regional Narcotics Trafficking Task Force.

The people of Tulia see it as just one more strike against them.

The Rev. Charles Davenport of First Baptist Church said he's trying to keep 
a low profile.

He also said that people in town want to focus on the positive that the 
community has to offer, instead of the negative spotlight put on the community.

"It's just an ongoing saga," he said. "I think everyone will be happy when 
it's over with."

As far as the drug bust itself, "Was there a grand conspiracy? Absolutely not."

A group of men chatting over coffee at the Conestoga Restaurant had cynical 
opinions about the settlement. They called lead lawyer Jeff Blackburn an 
ambulance chaser. They predicted fancy new cars driving around town - 
bought with the settlement money.

One man didn't like the negative image of the juries in the drug cases.

"Everyone that was on those juries were upstanding citizens," said Richard 
McDowell of Tulia.

Elsewhere, at least one person thought it a tragedy that the drug task 
force needed to be disbanded.

"This is terrible news for the citizens of the Panhandle," said Kenneth 
Bumpas Jr. "The task force was an excellent tool against the war on drugs 
in this area. It is very sad that once again the actions of a few 
negatively affect the rest of us."
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