Source: Dallas Morning News
Pubdate: Sat, 8 Aug 1998
Author: Michael Grazcyk


Houston-Acting on an informant's tip, members of the Houston Police
Department gang taskforce stormed into an apartment last month they
believed illegal drugs were being sold.

When the man who lived there locked himself inside his bedroom, the
officers kicked in the door and began firing.

33 bullets later, 23 year-old Pedro Oregon Navarro was dead, shot a dozen
times, including nine times in the back.

But the investigation in the wake of the fatal shooting shows the officers
had no warrant, the informant was not registered with the police as
required by Department rules covering drug informants, police found no
drugs in Mr. Oregon's apartment and a gun officers said Mr. Oregon had
pointed at them never was fired.

"There went knowingly and consciously in search of their own heroics and
forgot to abide by the rules," says Tony Cantu, a Hispanic activist in
Houston. "I'm Republican and I believe in no government intrusion. If the
police department coming into your apartment with a warrant is not
intrusive, what is?" The case has mobilized many Houston Hispanics,
prompting calls of for rallies and strategy sessions to pressure
authorities to prosecute and punish th offenders.

"It's frightening that officers would illegally enter a residence and shoot
a man in the back," said Paul Nugent, an attorney Mr. Oregon s ' s family
hired. "Evidence seems to indicate he was shot in the back while he was on
the floor. We think he dove to the floor for cover when the police kicked
in the door.

"We hope there's a vigorous investigation. The family is afraid there will
be a whitewash and the officers' actions will somehow be justified. "

Six officers who took part in the raid, including a sergeant, are suspended
with pay pending the outcome of the investigations. And least two are on
the way, one by the department's Internal Affairs Division and another by
homicide detectives and the District attorney's office, which is to present
its case to a grand jury the week of August 17.

The Mexican government has expressed its concern because Miss Oregon, the
father of two, was from Michoacan, Mexico. And the new national president
of the League of United Latin American Citizens, Houston attorney Rick
Dovalena, wants the Justice Department to look into the case.

"The bottom line is they shot an innocent young man in the back after in
illegal entry," Mr. Dovalina said.

The Justice Department, while monitoring the case, is not involved
actively, spokeswoman Karen Gary Guerriero said.

The case also has put a spotlight on the department, which has been hit in
recent weeks by instances of bicycle patrol officers filing false time
sheets and the suspension of an officer accused of raping several women.

The Police Chief Clarence Bradford, who won't talk about the Oregon case
while it is under investigation, denied accusations his department has a
discipline problem.

"I see some officers who probably in fact need to revisit what they're
going to do as Houston police officers and remember the oath that we all
took when we pin on our badge about serving the citizens of Houston," he

The Houston Chronicle quoted an unidentified police source as saying that
one of the officers or burst into Mr. Oregon's bedroom around 1:30 a.m.
July 12th-shouted that Mr. Oregon had a gun. About the same time an
officer's gun went off, with a bullet hitting another officer and knocking
him to the floor. The other officers, thinking Mr. Oregon had shot their
colleague, opened fire. The wounded officer wore a protective vest and was
not hurt seriously.

Harris County District Attorney John B. Holmes Jr. says it's possible the
officers and would not be indicted for shooting because under law, a person
may not resist an arrest, even if it is illegal.

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Checked-by: (Joel W. Johnson)