Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Tuesday, August 11, 1998
Victim's family gets $1.9 million
From Staff and Wire Reports
A settlement of nearly $2 million has been reached between
the federal government and the family of Redford teen killed
by U.S. Marines in May of 1997, Pecos attorney Bill Weinacht
announced this morning.
The family of Esequiel Hernandez, Jr., has signed an
agreement with the United States Department of Navy and the
Department of Justice for the settlement of their claims
regarding the shooting death of Hernandez, according to a
statement released Weinacht today.
The settlement proceeds will be structured with an expected
payout to the family by the government of $1.9 million
dollars, Weinacht said in a faxed message. The settlement
has been in the works for several weeks, but was awaiting
final agreement from all parties, Weinacht said earlier this
Hernandez's older brother, Margarito Hernandez, said he felt
the settlement showed the government had acknowledged the
shooting had been wrong. The military has always maintained
the incident was justified.
``If they accepted the deal, they accepted it was a wrong
thing that happened,'' Hernandez said.
He added the money did not ease the family's loss.
``It's pretty hard. Nothing is going to bring him back. But
at least it will help my parents,'' Hernandez said. ``It
will help them financially, at least. I'm glad something was
No further details were available today, and neither
Weinacht nor members of the Hernandez family could be
reached for comment this morning.
A Justice Department spokeswoman had no immediate comment on
the settlement, which is covered by the federal privacy act.
Hernandez, 18, was killed May 20, 1997, in Redford, 15 miles
southeast of Presidio, after crossing paths with a four-man
Marine patrol conducting anti-drug surveillance on the Rio
Grande at the request of the Border Patrol.
Military officials said Hernandez, who was tending his
family's goat herd, fired twice at the Marines with his .22
caliber rifle and had raised the gun a third time when the
Marine team leader shot him once with M-16.
Hernandez's family and civil rights activists have long
disputed the military's account of the shooting, which
prompted a national outcry and led to the suspension of
armed military patrols on the border.
Family members said the teen, who had no criminal history,
would never knowingly have shot at anyone. They said he
carried the rifle only to protect his livestock from wild
dogs and occasionally to shoot targets.
The Rev. Melvin LaFollette, a Redford activist, said the
settlement was ``one more piece of evidence that there was
total wrongdoing in this case by various arms of the
``Innocent parties don't pass out millions gratuitously,''
Federal and state grand juries that investigated the
incident declined to indict Cpl. Clemente Banuelos, who
fired the fatal shot, or any of the other three Marines.
An investigation by Joint Task Force 6, an El Paso-based
federal agency that coordinates anti-drug missions between
the military and civilian authorities, also concluded the
Marines acted within mission guidelines.
Weinacht said back in March he had serious problems with the
official version of the event.
"Isn't it strange that they need all sorts of scoping
meetings to inform the public when they are going to be
flying low-altitude training flights here, but to station
four marines in camouflage outside your house they don't
need to do anything?" Weinacht said. He added that the U.S.
Marines, Border Patrol and the federal government were all
"one." Implying that it should have come as no surprise when
the Department of Justice found no "criminal conduct" on the
part of the Marines.
"The Attorney General has an inherent conflict of
interest," said Weinacht.
U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith initiated an inquiry into the
matter earlier this year. Smith, who represents District 21
and is chairman of the House Immigration Subcommittee, said
on Feb. 26 that the Hernandez shooting was "a death that did
not have to happen and raises serious questions about
training and supervision by the Border Patrol."
Texas Rangers who investigated the scene found that
physical evidence there, as well as the autopsy results,
contradicted the testimony of the four marines.
Specifically, the angle of the entry wound compared with the
marine's testimony regarding Hernandez' position at the time
of the shooting did not seem to match.
Rangers Captain Barry Carver said that while the
information and attributions contained in these previous
news articles were factually correct, he had been asked by
Texas Department of Public Safety officials not to comment
any further on his findings associated with the case.
Salt, water items floated before board
By JON FULBRIGHT
Red Bluff Water Power Control Board members discussed both
the amount and the quality of water available to district
customers, while getting updates on the lake's water levels,
and on desalination and salt cedar eradication projects
during their monthly meeting on Monday in Pecos.
General manager Jim Ed Miller said that with the lake's
level at 56,931 acre feet, "We'll be able to give it out
(allotments to the downstream water districts), but we won't
have much left."
The board also discusses coming up with a new rule,
effective next year, on payments for water, after it was
reported Ward County Irrigation District No. 3 was had not
yet paid their water bill. The district has a 1,000
acre/feet allotment and has used none of the water yet, but
board president Randall Hartman said, "If you turn in for
it, you will pay for it or you will not be allotted for it,"
the following year.
"Most people pay for it the next month, and you have to pay
a quarter at delivery," said Miller, who later added there
should be a deadline for payment during the 1999 delivery
The district has delivered just over 16,600 acre/feet of the
35,000 allotted earlier this year. Board members were told
the lake has benefited from extra water releases from New
Mexico, thanks to above average rain and snow in the
northern part of the state since last winter.
"We did get 122.5 percent from New Mexico for 1997, and we
usually shoot for 90 percent," Pecos River Compact
Commissioner Brand Newton said. However, he adding that this
could hurt area farmers next year, since under the compact's
rules New Mexico's delivery to Texas is based on a
three-year running average."
"We could be down 20,000 (acre/feet), and we may not have
enough to allot next year," Miller cautioned.
Miller and Newton also discussed the Malaga Bend
desalination project. Miller said Loving Salt Co. president
Albert Wagner is still waiting for an environmental impact
statement before he can begin any work on the three
clay-lined ponds into which salt spring water now entering
the Pecos River would be diverted. A report given to board
members showed salt levels 50 percent higher below Malaga
Bend that at a testing gauge on the river above the salt
"Albert's selling all the salt he can make," Miller said.
"He's probably going to move down to Malaga and get a barn
for storage," while connecting the site up to a Burlington
Northern-Santa Fe railroad spur.
"Any time you can take 300 tons of salt out of the river, it
won't take out all the salt, but it's a good start," said
Newton, who along with board member Lloyd Goodrich told the
board the spring is gets its salt from the top of a 4,000
foot thick underground salt block, centered to the east of
Malaga-Loving area, near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
An environmental impact statement is also a key part of the
wait on the district's proposed salt cedar eradication
project. "What's going in our favor is the federal
government is already using Arsenal (herbicide) to control
salt cedars in other areas," Newton said.
"We're not on the cutting edge with this, but we're not on
the coattails either. There's still some new ground that has
to be decided," before any permit could be issued, he added.
Board members took no action on either of the salt-related
projects, but did approve the monthly water report, along
with cash disbursements and accounts payable.
County to weigh jail expansion
By MAC McKINNON
Expansion of the Reeves County jail to hold 48 more
prisoners at a cost of about $1.6 million will be considered
by Reeves County Commissioners later this month.
That possibility was raised in a memo circulated to
commissioners under staff reports during their regular
The memo was from Lorraine Dailey, architect with DRG
Associates of San Antonio, the architectural firm that
developed previous plans for changes at the Reeves County
County Judge Jimmy Galindo and Sheriff Andy Gomez met
recently with officials from the Texas Commission on Jail
Standards, and were told to limit the population to 84
The jail has been overcrowded for several years. Galindo
noted there are a number of grants available, including one
from the U.S. Marshals Service, that could help build two
ground floor dormitories.
The housing of prisoners generates funds for the county.
In other action, Becky Espino of Card, Graham & Co.,
presented the county's audit report for 1997 and noted that
everything is in good shapes. She made special notice that
all fund balances have increased, although tax receipts are
Commissioners appointed tax assessor-collector Elfida Zuniga
to calculate the effective tax rates and approved previous
tax exemptions which included $15,000 for homestead, $10,000
for medical and $3,000 for veterans.
Commissioners also extended the $5 per car additional
license fee, which generates about $83,000 per year and goes
to road and bridge.
Zuniga requested that funds allotted in the budget for a
part-time worker be used to pay her staff more. She pointed
out that one of her assistants had been cross-trained to
take care of the job she wanted part-time help for. Zuniga
added she wanted all of her office staff to get to at least
a $15,000 base.
Galindo replied that this was not the time to do this. He
said it wouldn't solve her long-term problem, for which she
needs a full-time person, adding to a point made earlier by
Zuniga. Galindo added this should be done in the budget now
being worked on for 1999.
Commissioner Dr. W. J. Bang made the same points as Galindo,
adding that there should be a personnel plan and all workers
in all departments should be treated equally.
However, Commissioner Herman Tarin noted that good people
are hard to find and keep and Commissioner Felipe Arredondo
added that workers need to be rewarded so they will stay.
Zuniga had originally asked for the temporary help for voter
Her request was approved on a 3-1 vote with Bang voting no.
Tarin asked that another item, a contract on the Pecos
Senior Center, be tabled in order to get more information.
His motion to table was approved, and another item, on the
Greenwood Cemetery, was also tabled after Clerk Dianne O.
Florez asked for more time to get someone to take over the
duties on the cemetery. Florez said her office doesn't have
the time to handle the job.
Students, parents get school assignments
By ROSIE FLORES
Forms need to be filled out, lockers assigned and other
details taken care of before students start their first day
of school, scheduled for a week from today.
Pecos Kindergarten is pre-registering little ones from 8-12
and from 1-4 p.m.
Austin Elementary will hold registration for all first and
second graders, from 6-8 p.m., Monday, Aug. 17, with school
scheduled to begin on Aug. 18.
Pecos Elementary will have registration for all third grade
student this Thursday. Students whose last names begin with
A through L will pre-register from 6-7 p.m., at the school
cafeteria. Registration for students with last names that
begin with an M-Z, is scheduled for 7-8 p.m., in the
Bessie Haynes Elementary School is welcoming fourth and
fifth graders' parents from 1-4 p.m., Monday, Aug. 17.
Parents can pre-register students at this time.
Zavala Middle School seventh grade students can register and
pick up their schedule this Friday. Students whose last
names begin with an A-F, will have registration at 9 a.m.,
students with last names that begin with a G-L at 10 a.m.,
M-P at 11 a.m. and those students whose last names begin
with a Q-Z will register at 1 p.m.
Crockett Middle School students need to pick up their
schedules and locker assignments on Friday at the following
times according to last name. Students with the last name
that begins with an A-F will have their chance from 8-9
a.m., students with last names G-L, 9 a.m. until 10 a.m.,
M-R, 10-11 a.m. and S-Z from 11 a.m. until noon. For more
information on Crockett registration call 447-7251.
Pecos High School will have orientation for all students
this Friday as well. Freshman students will be introduced to
high school personnel and briefed on proper behavior at 3
p.m. on that day at the Pecos High School Auditorium.
Seniors orientation will be at 8 a.m., Junior students at 10
a.m. and sophomores at 1 p.m.
"We'll have different personnel here at that time including
assistant principal Victor Tarin, both counselors and any
other personnel that needs to instruct the students in their
particular field," said high school principal Danny
Forms have been sent out to the students that need to be
filled out and returned on the day of orientation. If
students did not receive the appropriate form, the can pick
one up at Pecos High School.
These forms will be needed before schedules are handed out.
Some students may not have received one due to change of
address. For more information or to receive a form call the
student service office at 447-7273.
Fish kill plan depends on shrunken lake
By GREG HARMAN
At a mere 267 surface acres, the Balmorhea Lake has looked
Ringed by dirt roads and the intermittent, expectant fishing
pole, the lake, shrunken under the summer drought, needs to
lose even more water weight if it is to become the fishing
hole of the future -- what federal and state officials hope
will be a triumph for conservation and sport fishing.
But water district workers are more worried about having
water to irrigate crops now and in years to come than they
are in the future of fishing at the lake.
According to the original agreement with the Reeves County
Water Improvement District, Texas Parks and Wildlife
officials stated that the lake must be down to 50 acre feet
for the project to move forward. But TP&W Research Biologist
Gary Garrett said at Monday night's Balmorhea City Council
meeting that the project could be carried out if the lake
shrinks to as much as 200 acre feet.
Beyond that, the project became too expensive and the chance
of fish survival increased, said Garrett.
Garrett, who years ago proved that some fish are genetically
"dumber" and, hence, easier to catch, hopes to restock the
lake with a mix of "dumb" fish and neutered trophy-sized
Florida Bass. The TP&W will also publicize the lake heavily
when it is restocked, Garrett said.
"I'm excited because their are so many great things
happening," said Garrett. "The people of Balmorhea have been
great and are interested in being progressive."
Balmorhea Councilman Danny Reynolds commented after last
night's meeting that "If there ever was something that could
kick-start a town that's dying, this is it."
Reynolds said he envisioned bass tournaments and rising
property values as a result of the lake project.
However, Joe Gallego, manager of Reeves County Water
Improvement District 1, isn't interested in draining the
lake as some residents have urged. When it comes to having
water and not having water during this drought season,
Gallego said, the lake comes first.
"If we get some rain, which I hope we do, I don't care about
the kill," said Gallego. "I want to fill that lake up . . .
We can't just open the gates and let it go down the creek."
To eliminate a pesky import to the area known as the
sheepshead minnow -- a small, fatty bait fish brought to
West Texas from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts that threatens
the genetic purity of several indigenous breeds of pupfish
-- state and federal conservation groups want to perform the
kill on August 24.
Though he understands that many aren't happy about the
prospect of losing their favorite fishing hole for two
years, Garrett explained, "There will be some sacrifices
made, but that is how you get ahead."
The applications of rotenone are "as safe as you can get,"
Donated by the state of New Mexico, the rotenone, a
piscicide that inhibits the fishes ability to absorb oxygen,
is valued at about $30,000. According to Garrett, the
donation made the Balmorhea project possible. The department
will be spending an additional $30,000 on the project.
Garrett said that while sheepshead minnows are the original
pupfish, the area varieties, including the Pecos Pupfish,
Leon Springs Pupfish and Comanche Springs Pupfish are the
specialized species that will thrive best in the area.
Local growers mostly support the fish kill because it will
help keep the Pecos Pupfish off the endangered list.
Proposed to join the endangered ranks later this year, area
ranchers and farmers are working with Texas Parks and
Wildlife to keep the fish free of a federal designation,
which would undoubtedly include federal regulation of local
TP&W officials are working to have the sheepshead minnow
declared an illegal bait and are working to renovate water
pits on ranchland where the Pecos Pupfish is found.
According to Gallego, the period between August 20 and
September 20 usually brings rains with it. Should rain come,
the lake kill, originally scheduled for last year and
postponed until this August, may have time to wait yet.
High in Pecos Monday 101. Low this morning 73. Forecast for
tonight: Mostly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of showers
or thunderstorms. Low in the mid to upper 60s. Northeast to
east wind 5-10 mph. Wednesday, partly cloudy with a 30
percent chance of thunderstorms. high around 90. Northeast
to east wind 5-10 mph.
Mac McKinnon, 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 1998 by Pecos Enterprise