Colored Rock Map of Texas at I-20 in Pecos, Click for Travel Guide

Pecos Enterprise

Site Map
Pecos Gab

Pecos Country History
Archive 62
Archive 74
Archive 87
1987 Tornado Photos
Rodeo Photos 88
Archive 95
Archive 96
Archive 97
News Photos 1997
Rodeo Photos 97
Archive 98
News Photos 1998
Rodeo Photos 98
Parade Photos 98
Archive 99
Photos 99
Archive 2000
Photos 2000
Photos 2001
Photos 2002

Archive 2002

Area Newspapers
Economic Development


Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Monday, June 10, 2002

DPS official disputes Odessa American

report that slain officer hit by partner

Staff Writer
PECOS, Monday, June 10, 2002 -- An investigation is continuing into which bullets hit whom, during an altercation that occurred on May 16 at the Pecos Greyhound bus station and left one Trans Pecos Task Force officer dead.

"We know that five shots were fired and two of the shots hit Mr. Colunga," said Tela Mange, with the Department of Public Safety office in Austin. Colunga was the suspect that precipitated the incident when he drew a small handgun and opened fire on Task Force Officer Jaime Rodriguez.

The incident occurred when Rodriguez and another officer boarded the Greyhound bus, which was en-route to Los Angeles, to do a quick check through.

Rodriguez died in Lubbock about 6½ hours after being shot twice in the abdomen. Colunga pulled out a pistol and fired at Rodriguez as the Trans Pecos Task Force officer asked the man for identification.

Colunga was killed when officers returned fire, while a passenger on the bus, identified as 17-year-old Heather Lee of South Carolina, was also shot in the back during the gun battle. Colunga was pronounced dead at the scene, while Lee was flown to Covenant Hospital in Lubbock.

"We know that Colunga fired two of the shots and Trans Pecos Drug Task Force officer Mike Henderson fired three," said Mange. "We're still waiting for ballistics report to see which shots hit whom," she said, who added that the results could take anywhere from six months to a year to come back.

The Odessa American reported that Trans Pecos Drug Task Force Officer Mike Henderson, who was at the front of the bus, fired three shots, one hitting Rodriguez and two hitting Colunga. "I did not say that," said Mange. "We have never reported that one of the shots fired by Henderson hit Rodriguez, that hasn't been established yet," she said.

Autopsy reports previously released by the Texas Rangers said that Colunga fired the shot that killed Rodriguez.

A toxicology report revealed that there was THC (marijuana) present in Colunga's system, according to Mange.

"There were only personal belongings in Colunga's bag, nothing of evidentiary nature and no contraband," said Mange.

Mange said that Rodriguez fired no shots. "He never even had a chance to unholster his gun," said Mange.

Before Colunga opened fire, Rodriguez reportedly told him that the ticket he presented to the officer was for a different bus than the Los Angeles-bound bus he was on. No luggage belonging to Colunga was found on board the bus, but Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez said, "They located his bag in Tucson, Ariz. and it was sent down here."

However, even though a drug-sniffing dog in Tucson alerted to the bag, no drugs were found inside. "It only contained his personal belongings and clothes," said Gomez.

Colunga was wanted on a Travis County warrant for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, according to Gomez.

Colunga was shot once in the side with a .45-caliber pistol, while the gun he used was a pistol chambered for .380 automatic.

Gomez said that the group was to meet at the Trans Pecos Drug Task Force office, which is located behind the bus station, when the lieutenant for the task force suggested doing a quick check of the bus at the Pecos bus station. Rodriguez was not wearing his bulletproof vest at the time of the incident.

Since then, the Task Force has been receiving help in procuring new vests for all the officers, through donations in the community.

On May 29, Abundant Life Church donated two vests to the task force in memory of Rodriguez. The new vests are lighter and can be worn everyday. "They are a lot lighter and easier to wear everyday," said Trans Pecos Drug Task Force Commander Gary Richards. "These new vests are not as bulky and since they're so light they can be worn everyday, without them becoming to cumbersome," he said.

Recently, Austin Elementary School employees and the students raised enough funds to purchase two more of the new vests. They donated the vests last Friday to Sheriff Gomez in honor of officer Rodriguez.

Lee, 17, a passenger from Columbia, S.C., had a bullet lodged near her spine and was released a few days following surgery at the Lubbock hospital.

Workforce participants get ready for summer employ

Staff Writer
PECOS, Monday, June 10, 2002 -- The workforce for Reeves County has received a new group of workers today as students from both Pecos and Balmorhea start their first day of work through the Texas Workforce Commission.

Texas Workforce Commission Youth Coordinator John Garza said that a group of 45 area youth between the ages of 14 and 21 are participating in the year round Workforce Investment Act program (WIA).

This program allows students to learn skills and be certified as "job ready," as well as receiving opportunities to get work experience.

Last week the Workforce held an orientation for the students participating in the summer work program allowing them a chance to prepare for summer jobs.

Garza said that the orientation included a pilot program where the youth learn CPR skills during a two-day course.

"The programs get these youths job ready," he said. "You can't hold them up to certain expectation if you don't give them the training."

Garza said that the CPR classes went really well and the 27 students that attended had fun getting to know each other.

"These guys got along great," he said.

During the two days of training, the students learned general information about working at any job including working with co-workers, work attire and the basics of starting a new job.

Garza also said that Odessa College took time to teach the students customer service and business etiquette.

WIA is similar to the former JTPA program were students worked six weeks in the summer at various job locations.

However, the Workforce decided to expand that program to what is now the WIA program.

The students participate in the program year round and have opportunities to participate in mentoring programs, tutoring and study skill programs. They also participate in different workshops including resume workshops and interviewing workshops.

"We do a lot more than just work," Garza said.

The students that participate in the summer job placement program officially start their jobs today and will work for six weeks.

There are 20 different worksites throughout Reeves County, according to Garza.

Garza explained that there are certain requirements that the students must meet before they are able to participate in the program.

Those requirements include being between the ages of 14 and 21; they also have to fall below certain income guidelines and barrier guidelines.

Last week's orientation allowed the students to receive encouragement for their upcoming duties for their jobs, according to Garza.

"I think the youth are motivated and ready to go," he said. "We're looking forward to a successful summer."

Ghost Writer

The story of Sheriff Royal's shooting

PECOS, Monday, June 10, 2002 -- 0. W. Williams, surveyor and one time Pecos County Judge, wrote and filed with the Pecos County Clerk events that led to the murder of Sheriff A. J. Royal. This twelve page document is all that this writer has knowledge of except I talked to a man who had married into the family of Sheriff Royal and he said that there is no truth in the story. Judge Williams was 86 years old when he wrote this article. He also wrote many pamphlets and a book about his surveyor experiences in Texas and New Mexico.

The filed document relates many events that involved Sheriff Royal, all of them to show the character of the Sheriff. An example of the stories took place in 1893. A man was accused of stealing a watermelon from Royal's tenants. The man escaped while he was being taken to jail and ran into a marsh behind the jail. Royal followed shooting at him and when his last shot was fired, they struggled. Royal yelled for help and they secured the prisoner. The man was sentenced to three days in jail and when he was released, Royal and another man took him toward 12 Mile mountain. Royal said that he gave him a thrashing with a horsewhip and told him to never return to Pecos County. Royal said, "He never will."

Sheriff Royal became more aggressive in his intimidating ways and started threatening leading citizens including Judge Williams. While drinking and beating his drinking partner, Royal began cursing and sent word to two Rooney brothers and Mr. Matthews in Koeler's store that he was going to "Wipe them out." Royal later denied sending the message but it was confirmed that the threat was delivered.

Royal went to Koeler's store looking for the Rooney boys. James Rooney, in a small lard room adjoining the saloon, saw Royal pass through a small passage way toward the store with cocked pistol in hand. Finding no one in the store, he turned to go back and was confronted by Jimmie Rooney who was armed with a shotgun. When Royal started to shoot, Rooney fired.

Royal escaped and gathered a few men to surround the store and wanted to burn the store so he could shoot the men as they came out. James Rooney and Matthews surrendered and were taken to J. P. Court for preliminary examination. Royal burst into the court and became abusive and the J.P. adjourned court fearing further trouble. The Rooneys and Matthews, knowing that they could not be guaranteed safety in J. P. court, waved the examination and wished to appear before the grand jury.

Judge Williams noted that Royal had Barney Riggs as his chief aid. He stated that Riggs was understood to be a "bad" man. The West of the Pecos Museum has a plaque on the floor of the saloon designating the spot where Barney Riggs killed William Earheart in 1896.

The majority of the September Grand Jury was composed of Royal's friends. Mr. Williams named the jurist and their relation with Royal and he also believed that the District Attorney was prejudiced toward Royal. The jury issued a bill of indictment on several people opposed to Royal including Williams for not paying an occupation tax when Williams was not practicing law. They billed a man for fornication and not the woman, as she was intimate with Royal's hired "bravo." They indicted the Rooneys who, along with other men, felt that there was no protection of the law against the attempts on their lives.

Royal arrested several men after the grand jury indictments and refused to accept their bail but Judge Williams issued a writ of Habeas Corpus and they were released.

More threats were made on the lives of several men, especially Judge Williams. Rangers knew of these threats and advised Williams and several others that they should arm themselves. Royal was defeated in an election and Mr. Neighbor was installed as sheriff. Royal was indicted in three cases for assault and was the complaining witness in five cases to come before the court. The deputy sheriff had to bring Royal in for trial and it was noticed that he was armed as the form of a pistol could be seen under his vest.

After hearing the last case, Williams went to the clerk's office to read on a point of law. While reading, he heard a voice call "Royal" and then the muffled sound of a gunshot that came from the east door of the courthouse. He thought that Royal had shot some one. He went into the hall and saw a number men near the Sheriff's office but not Royal. In a minute or two, Williams went to the door of the Sheriff s office and there at a desk sat Royal with blood coming from his mouth and his left arm hanging down by the arm of the chair with blood streaming to the floor. There were six or seven buckshot holes in his left shoulder ranging toward the neck.

A man reported that he was sitting next to Royal when he heard him called but he could not identify the voice and all that he could see was the barrel of a shotgun thrust through the door and a glimpse of someone in dark clothes when the shot was fired. A number of the men who had been threatened by Royal were in the courthouse at the time and several of them had put shotguns in the Clerk's vault for their protection. It was thought one of the men under threat from Royal had done the shooting. Williams saw nothing of the acts or positions or situation of any one man or two men to lead him to suspect him or them more than others.

Rodeo tickets on sale at Chamber

PECOS, Monday, June 10, 2002 -- Tickets for this year's West of the Pecos Rodeo went on sale today at the Pecos Chamber of Commerce.

"We are encouraging everyone to buy their tickets early to get the best seats," Linda Clark said. Clark is in charge of ticket sales for the rodeo.

Only reserve tickets will be sold on opening night July 3 and on July 4. Reserve tickets sell for $8-$10.

The Rodeo Committee has designated both nights as Children's night with all kids 12-and-under getting in free when their parents buy reserve tickets to the rodeo.

Friday night and Saturday night the rodeo will sell both reserve and general admission tickets with reserve tickets selling for $8-$10 and general admission selling for $5.

Clark said that the rodeo performance will start at 8:00 p.m. each night this year and the ticket booth at the arena will open at 6:30 p.m.

Alzheimer's program scheduled

PECOS, Monday, June 10, 2002 -- The Alzheimer's Association, Greater West Texas Chapter, is presenting an educational program, "The Nursing Home Decision," at 10 a.m., Thursday, June 13.

This program will be held at the Reeves County Hospital, 2323 Texas Street.

The presenter is Janet Cross, program coordinator, Alzheimer's Association.

She will be addressing issues such as, "I promised my mom I would never put her in a nursing home," "How will I know it is time?" and "What should I look for?"

The program is open to the public and provided free of charge.

For more information contact Cross at 1-800-682-1174.


PECOS, Monday, June 10, 2002 -- Sundays high 102, lows last night 78. Today partly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs near 102.Southeast winds 10 to 20 mph. Tonight partly cloudy with isolated evening thunderstorms. Lows near 70. Southeast winds 10 to 20 mph. Tuesday mostly sunny. Highs around 101. Southeast winds 10 to 20 mph. Tuesday night partly cloudy. Lows near 70.

Search Entire Site:

Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.

324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321

Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.

Copyright 2002 by Pecos Enterprise