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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Lazcano says PD experience helped in Iraq

His experience as a law enforcement officer helped him during a tough time in his life, while he served his country overseas.

Pecos Police Officer Ernest Lazcano returned to his job last month, after serving over a year with his National Guard unit in Iraq.

“I guess it was a little easier for me than for other younger kids that are out there serving their country, because I was already used to seeing accidents and people dying, as part of my job as a police officer,” said Lazcano.

The Pecos native attended the Police Academy in 1993, and worked for the Reeves County Sheriff’s Office from 1996-1998 and at the Pecos Police Department from 1999 until his unit was called up for duty in August 2004.

Lazcano said that the experience wasn’t so bad, because of his job requirements. “It wasn’t too bad, but everybody takes it differently,” he said.

“I had already done one tour, but that time, we were just stationed in San Antonio on standby,” said Lazcano.

Lazcano had tried to join the military a long time ago, but couldn’t get in because he had flat feet.

“So, I decided to join the National Guard, since I already had a career,” said Lazcano. He joined the Guard in 2000 and since then has been attending training once a month and does two weeks in the summer.

In August of 2004, his unit was notified that they would be doing a tour of duty overseas. “My duties were as a team leader with the Infantry Rifle Unit,” said Lazcano.

Lazcano served with the Charlie Company 142nd Infantry Team Leader with the Infantry Rifle Squad.

“We were in a very remote camp,” said Lazcano. “Our main mission was to man a radio relay point and at the same time provide our own security,” said Lazcano.

Besides doing radio, the officers were also assigned to do clean patrol, look for roadside bombs.

“We would clear the roads for the convoys,” said Lazcano. “In addition, we had various other missions, such as providing medical attention, providing supplies to the kids at the schools, remodeling the schools and also doing night patrol, patrolling for insurgents,” he said.

A typical day for Lazcano began at 5 a.m. and ended at midnight, seven days a week. “We really never had any time off,” he said.

The crew would venture in to ‘town’ twice a week to do laundry and buy provisions.

“We were in a camp that was pretty rustic, we had no plumbing, just electricity provided by generators,” said Lazcano. “We had to cook our own meals, do our own laundry and when we went to town were allowed to use the phone, but the line was long, by the time you got there it was 3 a.m., in the U.S.”

However, he said that the troops were always greeted warmly by the Iraqis and were invited to dine with them and often took them gifts.

“One of the things I regretted, is that I didn’t get to see Babylon, since we were stationed off of Baghdad,” said Lazcano. “It’s not pretty up there.”

Lazcano said that he felt sadness towards the children, because education was not a priority. “Their culture is a whole lot different, to me it was like going back in time,” he said.

People still ride on donkeys down the main streets and some farmers just started using tractors.

“Before they would do everything by hand, but the higher classes started getting equipment such as tractors,” said Lazcano. “They were the only ones that had the nice commodities.” He said that it was a very conservative community, in which the women still covered their faces and the children were not allowed go to school.

“They were opposed to schools at first, which is why they have officers posted there, but gradually they are getting used to it,” said Lazcano. “They would prefer to have the children working.

“Even now, they put school second,” he said.

Lazcano said that apart from the way the Muslim women dress, the other big difference in cultures is that the females have no rights at all. “And neither do the children,” he said. Lazcano said that there are mosques everywhere and that the group had a lot of opportunities to interact with the locals.

“They would bring us food and invite us in, the children would get very excited and follow us and we would give them water, because what we had was the good bottled water, that was cold and all they drank was water from the canal,” said Lazcano. “The food is a lot different, they cook mostly chicken and rice and their favorite beverage is like a hot tea, with a lot of sugar,” he said.

Lazcano had the opportunity to see other servicemen from Pecos while serving overseas. “I saw Isaiah Marquez, but he was in a different location and a guy from Fort Stockton that now lives in Pecos,” said Lazcano. “Almost everyone in my squad was from different areas, some were from the Panhandle, San Antonio and other places.”

“This last time that we were called up, we had a month’s notice to get things together,” he said.

Lazcano added that he prepared to leave Pecos as if he wouldn’t be returning. “I made sure everything was taken care of before I left, like I wasn’t coming back,” he said.

His unit was told about the deployment in July and the group reported for training in August. “That sure didn’t give us much time,” he said.

On his days off before shipping out to Iraq, he came to Pecos to visit his family.

“It was 108 degrees here and everybody was complaining about the heat and I told them it felt just right,” said Lazcano. “The temperature up there was 130 degrees during the summer and we got to experience 150 degrees.”

Lazcano said that they didn’t lose anyone from their own unit, but that eight individuals from the brigade lost their lives overseas. “We had a couple that were injured by mortar fire and one of them was sent home,” he said. “We didn’t see any casualties, we saw small fires and different things, but nothing really bad.”

Lazcano said that they were victims of roadside bombs and drivebys. “The mortar fire, they’re like rockets and it’s hard to defend yourself from them,” he said.

Home life in the U.S. is hard to adjust to after you’ve been overseas. “It takes a while to get adjusted back to normal life,” said Lazcano. “The first couple of weeks was really hard,” he said.

Lazcano is back on duty at the Pecos Police Department. He came home on Dec. 18 and started working just after the New Year’s holiday.

“Even though it was something I wanted to do, at times I did think, ‘what in the world did I get myself into?,” he said.

However, he is happy to be back home with his family, which includes his wife, Roseanne and their five children, Cesar, 14; Vivian, 12; Bianca, 11; Alejandro, 7 and Alessandra, three. “I missed the baby’s complete second year of her life, it’s really good to be back home,” said Lazcano.

He plans to complete his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. “I would have completed it already, but I had to leave to Baghdad,” he said.

Council to eye ways to restart housing project

Pecos City Council members will decide on a request from the city of Barstow to lower that city’s recent water rate hike, and will discuss the situation with the stalled housing construction project in the Airlawn Addition on Thursday, during the council’s regular meeting at 7:30 a.m. in City Hall.

The housing project discussion was tabled at the council’s Jan. 26 meeting. The city is seeking both an extension on repayment of its ORCA loan of nearly $400,000, and a possible change of the project from single-family housing to apartments, in order to qualify local families for the project.

Pecos planned to build 20 new homes, 11 of them for low-income families, at the site in the 800 block of Washington Street. But after one home was built, the city has been unable to find families who can meet the requirements for a $55,000 home loan for the low-income structures.

The city received the loan in 2002, and was originally supposed to pay it back in March of 2005. The city was able to get a one-year extension on the repayment, and is seeking another extension while they prepare an alternate plan for use of the housing site.

The water rate issue was discussed by council during their Jan. 26 meeting. Barstow officials asked Pecos to consider lowering the increase that went into effect last month, as part of a sharp increase in water rates for all Pecos customers.

During the last meeting, council members agreed to a recommendation by city attorney Scott Johnson to temporarily cut Barstow’s rate from $2.80 to $2.50, and make the cut retroactive to the bill just received by the city, until a permanent rate could be determined. Barstow had been paying $1.57 for the first 1000 gallons under the past agreement. Ward County Precinct 1 Commissioner Julian Florez, representing the city, said Barstow took care of maintenance on its own lines and asked council members if the city could be charged the industrial use rate for in-town customers of $2.33 for the first 1,000 gallons. Also on the agenda are consideration of three grants, from the Department of Justice, the Texas Forrest Service and a Texas Yes! Program rural beautification grant.

During their Jan. 26 meeting, the council also discussed looking into a new system of handling contracts at the city’s Criminal Justice Center, which is designed to help the city’s financial situation.

City finance director Sam Contreras briefed the council during their Jan. 26 meeting that Richard Reyes, the city’s consultant in negotiations with the U.S. Marshal’s Service on inmate reimbursement rates, had recommended that Pecos implement third-party contracts between the Marshal’s Service and the CJC for various services the city currently pays directly at the 96-bed detention facility.

“He said you can bill the Marshal’s Service a higher rate for maintenance,” by using the third party contracts, which can be placed under the city’s Health Department, Contreras said. The money can be placed in the city’s cash-strapped General Fund.

“My only concern is we want this to be above-board,” said city attorney Scott Johnson. “If we provide a service at a certain rate, I want the Marshal’s Service to get its money’s worth.”

“I agree with the general idea of it. I just want to do it right,” said Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney, whose department runs n the CJC. McKinney added that other cities and counties with contracts with the Marshal’s Service already use the third-party billing method.

“It is a totally legal contract,” McKinney said.

Illegal alien smugglers given prison terms

Two Mexican nationals were sentenced on alien smuggling charges in Federal court in Midland last Wednesday.

United States Attorney Johnny Sutton announced in Midland that Jose Luis Landa-Perez and Mariano Valdez-Munoz of Torreon, Mexico, were sentenced on Feb. 1 to 57 months in federal prison for conspiracy to smuggle and transport illegal aliens. They were also sentenced to three years of supervised release upon completion of their prison sentence. On Aug. 30, 2005, Union Pacific employees in Hudspeth County, discovered the body of a deceased male next to its tracks near Fort Hancock. The head of the body was mangled. No identification papers were found on or near the corpse.

Working with Union Pacific, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents determined that the train that had most recently passed through the area would soon be entering Midland, several hundred miles to the east. After stopping the train, the agents found 10 illegal aliens on board. Also, blood was visible on the undercarriage of the train car.

During the investigation, the deceased was identified as 23-year-old Hector Abel Duarte, a native and citizen of Honduras who had crossed the border in to the United States illegally the previous day. The illegal aliens found on the train told authorities that Duarte had died as a result of an accident while falling from the train. Furthermore, they identified Landa-Perez and Valdez-Munoz, two of the illegal aliens discovered on the train, as the “coyotes,” or smuggling ringleaders, and that they each paid a fee of between $1,500 and $1,900 to be smuggled in to the United States and be transported to Dallas.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office, Midland Police Department, Midland County Sheriff’s Office together with the police department of Union Pacific Railroad. Assistant United States Attorney John Klassen prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

On Friday in federal court, Sutton said repeat offender pled guilty to a federal weapons charge.

Gilberto Munoz Minjarez, 55, of Odessa, faces up to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Appearing before United States Magistrate Judge L. Stuart Platt Friday morning, Minjarez admitted that he possessed a Mausser 30-30 rifle on Oct. 5. Minjarez further admitted that he had been previously convicted in state court in Ector County for a variety of crimes including: attempted murder, rape, and drug possession.

The case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI West Texas Area Major Offenders Task Force (WAMO) which is comprised of federal agents and local detectives who work together to investigate violent criminals in the Permian Basin area. On Oct. 5, 2005, authorities executed a search warrant at the defendant’s residence where they discovered the firearm.

Minjarez remains in federal custody pending sentencing. A sentencing date has yet to be scheduled.

Assistant United States Attorney Glenn Roque-Jackson is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

Contreras complete basic training

Pvt. Matthew T. Contreras completed Basic Training and AIT, at Fort Sill, Okla., United States Army Field Artillery Training Center. He graduated Jan. 19, 2006.

Pvt. Contreras is a member of the Army National Guard and will be stationed in Midland with B-BTRY 3D 133 FA.

He is married to Desiree H. Contreras and they have a son Matthew T. Contreras Jr.

Rayos seeking fourth term as Precinct 4 commissioner

A Reeves County Commissioner who has served eight years on the court has announced his intention to run for re-election.

Gilberto “Hivi” Rayos Jr. announced that he will be seeking a third term in office in the March 7 Democratic primary. Rayos, first elected in 1998, is being challenged by Ramiro “Ram” Guerra, Conchita M. Hernandez and Alex Ramirez in his bid for a new four-year term.

Rayos is the son of Angel “Canelo” and Eva Rayos and is married to Crusita V. Rayos. The couple has two children, Yvette Romo and Gilberto Rayos Jr. and four grandchildren. “I work as a reserve deputy sheriff, and am in charge of the reserve deputies for the Reeves County Sheriff’s Department,” said Rayos. “This is done without a salary,” he said.

Rayos is also employed with the Pecos Head Start Program and enjoys working there.

“I feel very proud to serve as a commissioner,” said Rayos.

“After I was elected, the prison became our biggest employer in Pecos,” said Rayos. “We are hoping to employ additional personnel if the expansion at the prison is done. Also raise the salaries of the employee’s.”

Rayos said that the county started a recreation program in Pecos and Balmorhea, and the recreation center has become one of the most popular activities center in Pecos.

“We created a year-round activities center offering T-ball, flag football, basketball, aerobics, volleyball and soccer,” said Rayos. “We also created the two racquetball courts,” he said.

“I continue working on the North Side Park hoping to make it a better place, something we can be proud of. I have additional projects that I have not been able to finish and I am hoping that this coming year will give me that opportunity,” he said.

Rayos said that though he will continue to face criticism from some people, he believes that he is doing what is best for his precinct and the county. “You have placed trust in me to represent you as commissioner of your precinct; I now place my trust in you hoping that you will re-elect me as your county commissioner so that I may finish the work that I have started,” he said.

“I hope to bring what I have learned this last two terms to commissioner’s court,” said Rayos. “We will be facing a big challenge with our county judge leaving and commissioners (Roy) Alvarado and (Saul) Herrera serving their community as commissioners for the first time.”

“We will need to work together on projects that are ongoing. I am hoping that I can help the new county judge and the new commissioners by answering any questions they might have,” he said s.

Police Report

EDITOR’S NOTE: Information contained in the Police Report is obtained from reports filed by the Pecos Police Department, Reeves County Sheriff’s Office, or other officers of those agencies. The serving of warrants by an officer for outstanding fines of either traffic citations, animal control violations or other court costs are considered arrests and will be printed as such unless indicated that the fines were paid. In such instances we will indicate payment and release.

*** Police arrested Luis Cendejas, 33, of Carrollton, on Jan. 27 at 11:22 a.m. on a charge of failure to maintain a requirement of financial responsibility. Police said the arrest took place on Interstate 20 at mile marker 36, after Cendejas’ vehicle was stopped while westbound on the highway.

*** Ruben Anthony Martinez, 29, 1108 S. Elm St., was arrested by police at his home on Jan. 31 on a warrant for a parole violation. Police said the warrant was issued by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and Martinez was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

*** Police arrested Estephen Lopez, 27, 1009 S. Cherry St., on Jan. 31 on a warrant charging him with failure to appear on a charge of driver unrestrained by seat belt. The arrest came after police were called to Lopez’s home in response to a complaint about loud music, and a records check revealed the outstanding warrant. Police then took him to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

*** Joann Rodriguez Lira, 35, 413 S. Alberta St., was arrested on warrants charging her with allowing an animal to run at large and failure to appear on the original charge. Police said the arrest took place in the 400 block of South Alberta Street, and Lira was transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

*** Samantha Mendoza, 26, 312 S. Orange St., was arrested by police on Jan. 31 on a warrant out of Midland County charging her with organized criminal activity. The arrest took place at 1:40 a.m. in the 1200 block of East Seventh Street, after officers were called to the 600 block of South Mulberry Street in response to a disturbance. A records check turned up the Midland warrant, and Mendoza was then transported by police to the Criminal Justice Center.

*** Priscilla Wright Orosco, 37, 2308 Cactus St., Apt. A, was arrested by police on a warrant relating to a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. Police said the warrant was served

while Orosco was already in custody at Reeves County Jail. *** Police arrested Jose Luis Bustamantes, 922 S. Mesquite St., on Jan. 31 on a charge of public intoxication. Police said the arrest took place in the 1200 block of East Seventh Street, , after officers were called to the 600 block of South Mulberry Street in response to a disturbance. Bustamantes was then transported by police to the Criminal Justice Center.

*** Jimmy Ray Vasquez, 20, 1614 Johnson St., was arrested by police on Jan. 28 on a warrant charging him with evading arrest or detention in a motor vehicle. Police said the arrest was made after Vasquez was reportedly seen driving erratically in the 200 block of West Third Street. He then refused to stop his vehicle for several blocks, before finally halting in the 100 block of East Sixth Street. He was then placed under arrest and transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

*** Ruben Martinez, 26, 1108 S. Elm St., was arrested on Jan. 28 at the Suavecito Club, 900 S. Cedar St., and charged with possession of marijuana over two ounces and under four ounces. Police said the arrest occurred after officers were called to the club in response to a fight, and found sandwich bags containing marijuana inside his jacket pocket. He was then placed under arrest and transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

*** Police arrested Coronado Gonzales, 26, 207 E. 12th St., on Jan. 28 on a warrant charging him with motion to adjudicate guilt cause on an original charge of aggravated assault. Police said the warrant was issued out of 143rd Judicial District Court in Pecos, and the arrest took place after police spotted Gonzales at 11 a.m. in the 1100 block of South Ash Street. He was then placed under arrest and transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

*** Delma Rodriguez, 33, 709 S. Ash St., was arrested by police on Jan. 28 on a warrant charging her with motion to revoke on an original charge of assault. Police said the arrest took place at 7:19 p.m. in the 300 block of South Oak Street.

*** Susan Gonzales Rodriguez, 54, and Jose Luis Longoria, 46, were arrested at their motel room at the Pecos Inn, 2207 W. Third St., on Jan. 29 on charges of simple assault under the Family Violence Act, a Class C misdemeanor. Police said they were called to the motel at 9:18 p.m. in response to an argument between Rodriguez and Longoria, her live-in boyfriend, in their motel room. Both were transported by officers to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

*** Police arrested Lucas John Ruiz, 27, 1015 S. Pecan St., on Jan. 25 on a warrant charging him with failure to comply with requirements on duty and give information and render aid. Police said the arrest took place at his home, and he was transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

*** Rhonda Renteria, 23, 1212 S. Cherry St., was arrested by police on Jan. 24 on a warrant charging her with possession of a controlled substance (heroin), a Third Degree Felony. Police said the arrest took place at 4:41 p.m. in the 1000 block of South Cedar Street, and she was then transported by officers to the Criminal Justice Center.

*** Manuel Alaniz Carrasco, 35, 1403 S. Oak St., was arrested by police on Jan. 24 on warrants charging him with theft by check, a judgment out of the 83rd District Court in Pecos County on a charge of theft over $1,500 and under $20,000, and engagement in organized criminal activity in Andrews County, for theft by check with a $5,000 surety bond. The arrest took place at 7:36 a.m. at the Town and Country Food Store at 1219 S. Cedar St., and he was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

*** Jose Corrales Reyes, 37, 2320 Country Club Dr., was arrested on Jan. 21 by police on a charge of assault under the Family Violence Act, a Class A misdemeanor. Police said the arrest took place at Reyes’ home, after a woman at the home claimed Reyes had assaulted her. Officers said Reyes told them only an argument took place, but evidence on the scene supported the assault claim. He was then arrested and transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

*** Fredrico Rede Lara, 48, 817 S. Walnut St., was arrested by police on Jan. 22 on a charge of criminal trespass. Police said the arrest took place at the Flying J Truck Stop, 100 E. Pinehurst St., where Lara was found after being banned from the store. He was arrested and transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

*** Police arrested Maria Luisa Rodriguez, 40, 817 S. Locust St., on Jan. 19 on a warrant charging her with theft of service, a Class B misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made when Rodriguez turned herself into police at 9:05 a.m. on the warrant, issued by Municipal Court Judge Amonario Ramon.

*** Police arrested a 13-year-old juvenile on Jan. 16 at 621 S. Cherry St., on a charge of assault under the Family Violence Act. Police said the arrest occurred after the male teen assaulted his father at their home by punching him in the face. He was then transported by officers to the Reeves County Juvenile Detention Center.

*** Jacob John Jaramillo, 17, 1803 W. Fifth St., was arrested by police on Jan. 14 on charges of carrying a prohibited weapon and evading arrest or detention. Police said the arrest took place at 11:09 p.m. in the 300 block of North Alamo Street, after officers were called to investigate suspicious suspects and found Jaramillo, who was caught after running away from officers. He was then taken to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

*** Christopher Lee Hodges, 23, 314 E. Concho St., in Barstow, was arrested by police on Jan. 16 on warrants charging him with a traffic offense, and motion to revoke probation on an original charge of assault under the Family Violence Act out of the Ward County Sheriff’s Department in Monahans. Police said the arrest was made following a traffic stop in the 300 block of South Locust Street.

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