Dozens gather to demand justice in Oregon killing

By STEPHEN JOHNSON, Houston Chronicle, November 05, 1998

Calling the shooting of Pedro Oregon Navarro "murder," protesters, activists and relatives of those slain previously by Houston police demanded justice in Oregon's killing.

Saying the firing of the six officers involved in the unauthorized raid that resulted in Oregon's death is insufficient, dozens of protesters gathered outside the Harris County Criminal Courthouse on Thursday.

They called for the resignation of District Attorney John B. Holmes Jr. and prosecution of the officers for the July 12 killing of Oregon, who was shot 12 times.

A grand jury no-billed all the officers except for indicting one on a charge of misdemeanor criminal trespass.

"We feel the evidence is clear," said Toylean Johnson of the Justice for Pedro Oregon Coalition.

The protesters' anger was fanned by a Houston Chronicle story Thursday that Officer David R. Barrera fired 24 of the 33 rounds discharged during the raid.

HPD Chief C.O. Bradford fired all six officers on grounds that they violated the law as well as procedures.

The protesters included Susan Hartnett, whose son Derek Jason Kaesman, 25, was shot 14 times in a hail of gunfire after leading Houston police on a chase Oct. 25.

"We have returned to the wild West where the posse acts as judge, jury and executioner, said Hartnett, who accused the police of murdering her son.

Another adding her voice was Janie Torres, whose brother Joe Campos Torres was beaten by Houston police in 1977 and drowned after falling or being pushed into Buffalo Bayou.

"Everyone else in this city who (commits) a crime is expected to pay for that crime," said Torres. "This (Oregon's killing) is murder."

The officers involved in Oregon's shooting were "cold-blooded murdering cowards," Torres said. "We did not ask for this and we do not deserve this."

Noel "Skip" Allen, whose son Travis, 17, was shot to death by Bellaire police in 1995, called the lack of a felony indictment in Oregon's killing "typical of the good old boy justice in Texas."

"Police brutality is not a thing of color," said Allen. "We have police out there who have no business being in uniform."

Local NAACP President Howard Jefferson called on city leaders to "come together and right this wrong."

Justice of the Peace Al Green warned the gathering, "Unless we take a firm stand, the next victim can be one of our own relatives."

Green decried what he called the lack of public interest in the shooting of Oregon because he was not an affluent member of society.

"Someday," Green said, "they (police) are going to kill the wrong person.

"When they break into the wrong house and kill the wrong person, then we'll see lawyers and doctors and politicians rise up."


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