Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Monday, June 10, 2002
DPS official disputes Odessa American
report that slain officer hit by partner
By ROSIE FLORES
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
"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
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
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
By LEIA HOLLAND
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
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
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."
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
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.
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
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Copyright 2002 by Pecos Enterprise