Pedro Gonzales Jr Beaten to Death by Pasadena Police

The Case To Date 

July 24, 2007, 7:48AM
Man who died in Pasadena police custody had lung injury

By JENNIFER LEAHY
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

A man who died over the weekend while in custody of the Pasadena Police suffered a “pinhole” perforation to the lung caused by a bone splinter from a rib fracture that likely caused his death, according to preliminary results of the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office, Pasadena Police said.

Pedro Gonzales Jr., 51, was taken into custody on charges of public intoxication and evading arrest around 2 a.m. Saturday in the 1800 block of Harris, where he was sitting alone in the bed of a pickup truck. Police said Gonzales appeared to be intoxicated and tripped while being escorted to the patrol car.

“If someone appears to require medical attention we have them taken to the hospital unless they refuse, which he did, both verbally and in writing,” said Capt. Bud Corbett.

Gonzales, who initially refused medical treatment, received medical attention from a private ambulance service team after collapsing near the jail booking area. His vital signs at the time were normal, Corbett said.

Gonzales was then moved to a holding cell, so he could “be easily watched by officers,” said Pasadena Police spokesman Vance Mitchell.

A short time later, a jailer noticed that Gonzales appeared to not be breathing. Medical personnel returned to the scene and pronounced Gonzales dead.

jennifer.leahy@chron.com

July 25, 2007, 12:10AM
Family questions death of man in custody
They say his injuries are inconsistent with police accounts
By ROBERT CROWE
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Pedro Gonzales Jr.’s family was incredulous after Pasadena Police Department investigators said the man died in police custody Saturday after he tripped and fell while officers escorted him to a patrol car.

“He had a punctured lung. His head was injured and his arm was scratched,” Gonzales’ brother, Jesse, 46, said Tuesday. “That doesn’t happen when you trip and fall.”

When asked Tuesday to explain how Gonzales, 51, sustained such injuries from stumbling to the ground, a Pasadena police spokesman said some injuries may have occurred when the officers scuffled with the man, who was arrested for public intoxication.

“The officers theorized that the scrape on the arm was from that altercation on the ground, but the bump on the head, I think, their view of it was that it occurred as a result of him tripping,” said Pasadena Police Department Capt. Bud Corbett.

“I just can’t believe that,” Jesse Gonzales said.

The family is also upset that police did not take Gonzales to a hospital after arresting officers noticed he sustained injuries before his death. Police said he signed a letter refusing treatment but, because he was likely intoxicated, the family thinks he was not competent to make such a decision.

Pasadena police on Monday said preliminary autopsy results indicated a “pinhole” perforation to a lung caused by a bone splinter from a rib fracture likely caused Gonzales’ death. A Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office investigator declined to comment Tuesday, citing a pending autopsy.

Corbett said detectives are still trying to determine whether Gonzales’ ribs were fractured when he fell or during the scuffle with police on the ground.

“That’s something for the internal affairs investigation,” he said.

The arresting officers, C. Jones, 29, and J. Buckaloo, 33, have been reassigned with pay pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation, said police spokesman Vance Mitchell.

Jones and Buckaloo were patrolling Harris Avenue about 2 a.m. when they noticed Gonzales in the back of a pickup outside a business, Corbett said.

When the officers determined that Gonzales was drunk, they attempted to arrest him for public intoxication, but he resisted, Corbett said, adding that the officers forcibly took him into custody. A struggle ensued before he was handcuffed and placed in a car, Corbett said.

Jones and Buckaloo told investigators that Gonzales tripped and fell on a concrete island as they escorted him. When they arrived at the police station, officers called for an ambulance to treat him for the head injury and scrape to his arm, Corbett said.

A manager with the East Texas Medical Center ambulance service declined to comment.

Gonzales told paramedics he had pain in his ribs and legs, but he signed a form declining further medical treatment before he was placed in a holding cell, police said.

He was later found dead in the cell.

Police said they initially spotted Gonzales in the back of his pickup parked outside an auto shop in the 1300 block of East Harris.

The business is located in a converted gas station. The pickup was parked next to a concrete, oval shaped island where gas pumps once stood. It was on this island, police said, that Gonzales tripped.

“The handcuffs were on and one officer had a grip on him … but then he fell,” Corbett said. “The officer was not able to prevent him from going to the ground.”

Adrian Caballero, a relative who lived with Gonzales and his brother Jesse about a mile away from the scene, said the department’s explanation leads to more questions.

“Pedro wasn’t a violent person,” Caballero said. “He was a little guy, like 5-foot-3, and he only weighed about 130 pounds.”

Corbett said the incident happened days after Gonzales had been released from the Pasadena Jail following a three-day stay for public intoxication. Jesse Gonzales said his brother had always complied with officers when he was arrested for being drunk in public.

“It’s just not right what happened to him,” Jesse Gonzales said.

robert.crowe@chron.com

 

July 27, 2007, 5:53PM

  [Check out the Chron page for the audio from the 911 call and a link to the Pasadena Police Dept Incident Report.]

Witness: Man hit by Pasadena police was not resisting Pasadena PD says he fought officers; he later died in a jail cell

A man repeatedly hit by two Pasadena police officers before he died Saturday did not appear to be struggling or resisting arrest, according to a woman who said she witnessed the incident.

Evelyn D. Moreno told Pasadena Police Department’s internal affairs investigators Thursday that she was driving home about 2 a.m. when she noticed the officers standing above a man lying on the ground at a business as she approached the 1300 block of East Harris Avenue.

“I stopped and saw he was just laying there, on the floor, flat on his back, and the cops were just punching him,” Moreno, 20, told the Houston Chronicle on Thursday after she gave a statement to police. “You can tell when someone’s struggling, but he wasn’t putting up a fight.”

About six hours later, 51-year-old Pedro Gonzales Jr. was found dead in a jail cell. Preliminary autopsy results show he died from a punctured lung related to a fractured rib.

Pasadena Police Capt. Bud Corbett said the officers’ account of the incident, given in the arrest report, indicates Gonzales resisted arrest for public intoxication.

“The context in which physical force was used on this person was for the purpose of overcoming resistance to arrest,” Corbett said Thursday.

Moreno insists that she watched for two minutes as the officers hit the man repeatedly as he lay motionless on the ground. She was driving home from her in-laws’ house while her husband watched the scene unfold while he sat in the passenger seat.

Their car was many feet away from the scene, but the officers were standing beneath a streetlight at Galindo’s Auto Service. Moreno said she drove away after an officer noticed her car and then began approaching. The scene troubled her so much that she stopped at a nearby pay phone and called 911, to no avail.

“The dispatcher said there’s nothing they could do, and that police were just doing their job,” Moreno said. “But I said they were beating him while he’s lying flat on the floor. But the person said, ‘There’s nothing I can do.’ She said I should call police.”

He was treated at jail

Pasadena police officials on Thursday confirmed Moreno made an emergency call near the time of the incident. A police report does not indicate an ambulance was dispatched to the scene before officers took Gonzales to the Pasadena City Jail, where he was found dead in a holding cell at about 7:30 a.m.Paramedics treated him at the jail after he complained of injuries, but he refused further treatment and was placed in a cell before he died, Corbett said.

Moreno said she made a point to remember that she made the emergency call at about 2:20 a.m. “because I wanted to remember just in case something else happened.”

She said she learned that Gonzales had died after a family friend who read about the incident in a newspaper article Wednesday told her husband.

“We don’t read the paper, but someone told us about how this thing happened on East Harris, and we were like, ‘Wait, was that Saturday?’ ” she said.

Pasadena police officials stated Monday that Gonzales was possibly injured about 2 a.m. when he tripped and fell in a parking lot as police officers escorted him to a patrol car while arresting him for public intoxication.

Police also said Monday that preliminary autopsy results indicated a “pinhole” perforation to a lung caused by a bone splinter from a rib fracture likely caused Gonzales’ death. Medical Examiner investigators declined to comment Thursday, citing a pending autopsy.

Officers saw him in pickup

Officers Christopher S. Jones, 29, and Jason W. Buckaloo, 33, were patrolling Harris Avenue about 2 a.m. when they noticed Gonzales in the back of a pickup outside a business, Corbett said.When the officers determined that Gonzales was drunk, they attempted to arrest him for public intoxication. But he resisted, Corbett said, adding that the officers forcibly took him into custody.

After the Chronicle asked police on Tuesday to explain how he could have sustained multiple injuries by tripping, Capt. Corbett said Gonzales got some injuries during a struggle with Jones and Buckaloo.

The incident report released Thursday was written by Jones, who joined the department earlier this year.

In the report, Jones states Gonzales, whom he refers to as “Pete,” had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech before he resisted arrest.

“Pete was pulled to the ground and he began kicking, striking Officer Buckaloo several times in the legs … We administered several knee strikes and elbow strikes to Pete’s back and thighs and ordered him to stop resisting … At no time did Pete obey any of the orders given to him by Officer Buckaloo or I,” Jones stated.

Arrested 10 times

Records show Gonzales had been arrested for public intoxication 10 times between February 2000 and Saturday. Three arrests included criminal mischief, burglary of a motor vehicle and burglary of a building. On Saturday, before his death, he was charged with resisting arrest, assault on a police officer and public intoxication.According to Buckaloo’s personnel file, the officer has been on the force since 2000. He worked in a series of retail jobs before becoming an officer. Records show he generally received above average and average ratings in employee reviews, but a review from 2002 indicates that he had been temporarily reassigned to dispatch pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation. The file does not indicate what prompted the investigation.

According to Jones’ personnel file, he worked in loss prevention at a Chandler, Ariz., Best Buy for about six months before applying to Pasadena PD in January.

Before that, he worked as an officer at Grandview Police Department in Grandview, Mo., between April 2002 and July 2006. He was a security guard in a Grandview neighborhood in 2005 and 2006.

In January 2002 he was a Las Vegas Police Department academy recruit before he worked as a Platte City, Mo., deputy sheriff between 2000 and 2001.

A jury in 2002 found Buckaloo not guilty of using excessive force on a teenager at South Houston High School as the officer took a 15-year-old into custody following a lunchroom fight in October 2001.

The youth testified during the trial that the officer dragged him through a hallway and slammed his face into a wall. A coach testified that the boy appeared to throw his elbows as he was taken into custody.

robert.crowe@chron.com

July 28, 2007, 12:53PM
Man struck by police saw freedom for 1 hour
New specifics from Pasadena PD emerge on the day of his funeral

On the day of Pedro Gonzales Jr.’s funeral, community activists Friday called for a federal inquiry into the Pasadena man’s death as new details emerged, further complicating a case in which the actions of two officers have come under scrutiny.

Grieving family members learned Friday that the man had been released from the Pasadena Jail about one hour before officers Jason Buckaloo and Christopher Jones re-arrested him on suspicion of public intoxication. Police said Gonzales — spotted sitting in the bed of a pickup less than a mile from the jail — resisted arrest and force was needed to restrain him on July 21. A few hours later, Gonzales was found dead in a jail cell. He had injuries to his head, arm and ribs.

“There’s no way he would have been able to buy alcohol because he only had 64 cents in his pocket when he left the jail,” Rick Dovalina, spokesman of the League of United Latin American Citizens Council, said Friday.

As the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and the Internal Affairs Division of the Pasadena Police Department conduct investigations into Gonzales’ death, Dovalina and other activists said an independent investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice is necessary.

Dovalina met with Gonzales’ family Friday to discuss all that he had learned about the incident after a meeting this week with Pasadena Police Chief Mike Massey, Capt. Bud Corbett and other officials.

Witness wasn’t mentioned

Dovalina reported that officials told him Gonzales was released about 1 a.m. the morning before he was re-arrested. During that meeting, Dovalina said, police officials never mentioned to him that a witness had told police that Gonzales was motionless when the officers hit him.

They also never mentioned that witness Evelyn Moreno had called 911 to report that she had seen the officers beating Gonzales for two minutes.

A recording of the the emergency call Moreno made at 2:09 a.m. reveals the concern in her voice. The 20-year-old woman said she was driving home when she noticed the officers hitting Gonzales outside a business in the 1300 block of East Harris.

On the recording it is difficult to hear Moreno, who called from a pay phone, because she initially wanted to remain anonymous. The female dispatcher’s responses seem to indicate that she understood that Moreno was reporting police brutality.

The dispatcher gave Moreno a non-emergency phone number to call, but Moreno declined to call, saying she did not think anyone would take her seriously because the dispatcher did not seem too concerned.

Pasadena officials said an ambulance or police unit was not dispatched to the scene after Moreno called because the incident happened in a matter of two minutes. Paramedics treated Gonzales at the jail after he complained of injuries, but he refused further treatment and was placed in a cell before he died, said Capt. Corbett.

About 7:30 a.m., Gonzales was found dead in a holding cell. Preliminary autopsy reports show Gonzales died from a punctured lung related to a fractured rib. Police said the injuries were the result of force they were required to use because he resisted arrest for public intoxication.

Although autopsy results are incomplete, Dovalina said he doesn’t believe Gonzales was drunk or on drugs before his death. The man would not have had time to go to a store to purchase alcohol because Texas businesses must stop selling beer or alcohol after 1 a.m. And there are no bars near the jail because it is a dry portion of Pasadena, family members said.

“It’s not right what happened to my husband,” said his wife, Diana Gonzales. “He had a 13-year-old daughter and two sons who loved him.” Gonzales’ family buried him after a simple funeral Friday. To pay for the service, one relative sold an old van. Others chipped in what little they could.

Activists are calling for a federal review of local investigations because, they said, Pasadena police have changed their stories multiple times and held back key information before the Chronicle began inquiring into Gonzales’ death.

Pasadena police officials stated Monday that Gonzales was possibly injured about 2 a.m. when he tripped and fell in a parking lot as police officers escorted him to a patrol car while arresting him for public intoxication.

After the Chronicle asked police on Tuesday to explain how he could have suffered multiple injuries by tripping, Corbett said Gonzales sustained some injuries during a struggle with Jones and Buckaloo.

Gonzales’ family is especially troubled that Buckaloo had previously been indicted on charges of using excessive force on a 15-year-old South Houston High School student in 2001. A jury found him not guilty in a 2002 trial of official oppression.

Jones, who began working for Pasadena PD this year, had previously worked for the Grandview Police Department in Missouri from April 2002 to July 2006.

A city of Grandview human resources director said he voluntarily left the department. There were no complaints in his personnel file, she said.

robert.crowe@chron.com

Aug. 1, 2007, 11:59PM
After a 911 call, nothing done
Records: 25 minutes passed after complaint about beating
By ROBERT CROWE
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

A Pasadena police dispatcher didn’t send anyone to investigate a 911 caller’s report of ongoing police brutality last month because the incident was just about over, according to the department.

But police records released last week under the Texas Public Information Act show that roughly 25 minutes elapsed from the time of the 911 call until officers booked Pedro Gonzales into the jail where he died a few hours later with a punctured lung. The auto shop parking lot where officers Jason W. Buckaloo and Christopher S. Jones arrested Gonzales for public intoxication just after 2 a.m. on July 21 is about half a mile from the police station.

Gonzales was found dead in his jail cell about five hours after the officers used force to arrest him on a public intoxication charge.

Pasadena Police Capt. Bud Corbett initially said Gonzales may have suffered injuries when he tripped and fell as an officer escorted him to a patrol car. Corbett, who heads Pasadena’s internal affairs division, later acknowledged that Gonzales may have suffered some injuries when the officers used force as the man resisted arrest.

The arrest happened just an hour after Gonzales had been released from the jail after a 3-day stay for another public intoxication charge.

In their report, Buckaloo and Jones say Gonzales appeared drunk and needed help maintaining his balance when they first approached him. He then became belligerent, forcing the officers to subdue the 5-foot-6, 160-pound 51-year-old, the report states.

The female dispatcher, whose name has not been released, followed Pasadena police policy because she alerted a supervisor that a woman reported the officers were beating Gonzales, police spokesman Vance Mitchell said.

The dispatcher, however, did not think it was necessary to send a police supervisor or ambulance to the parking lot outside Galindo’s Auto Service at 1309 E. Harris. Gonzales told the arresting officers he didn’t need medical treatment, Mitchell said, and the scene “was cleared in just a few minutes.”

According the the police report, the two officers spotted Gonzales in the back of a pickup at 2:07 a.m. The 911 call from a passerby named Evelyn Moreno came it a 2:09 a.m. Gonzales was arrested at 2:15 a.m. and booked into the jail at 2:34 a.m., records show.

Mitchell would not say how quickly the dispatcher notified her supervisor or what the supervisor did after being informed of the caller’s allegation.

The Chronicle requested a copy of the department’s dispatch policy on Monday, but city attorneys haven’t decided whether to make the document public, Mitchell said.

“I’m not gonna discuss that with you at this point,” he said. “All of that’s under review.”

Protest planned

Activists have called on the U.S. Justice Department to conduct an independent investigation. Protestors plan to gather at 4 p.m. today outside Pasadena police headquarters, 1114 Jeff Ginn Memorial Drive.Pasadena Police Chief Mike Massey has not responded to repeated phone calls seeking comment about Gonzales’ death. Pasadena Mayor John Manlove said Wednesday that he is confident internal affairs detectives, under Massey’s leadership, will conduct an impartial investigation.

“The No. 1 reason I’m confident is because the Chronicle is looking into this,” Manlove said. “They have a reason to put everything on the table.”

Eric Parry, a police consultant with the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch, said most police department dispatch units write their own policies. Industry best practices call for dispatchers to immediately notify a supervisor to begin a formal investigation when a caller accuses an officer of wrongdoing.

Dave Cutler, director the Houston Emergency Center, said Houston dispatchers would be required to immediately send a police supervisor to investigate a call such as Moreno’s.

The 911 call

Moreno told the dispatcher she had just witnessed police beat a man on the ground at Strawberry and Harris.On a recording of the call provided by the police department, the dispatcher can be heard telling Moreno that she is having trouble hearing her. At one point, the dispatcher says, “All right, ma’am, I’m not out there so I don’t know if he was resisting arrest.”

Moreno, who had stopped at a nearby payphone to make the call, then says, “They just jumped on him; they started just beating him … ”

The dispatcher responds with, “I can barely hear you” and Moreno asks, “do you have a number where I can complain about the cops?” The dispatcher then gave her the police station’s non-emergency number.

The dispatcher never asked for Moreno’s name or phone number.

Gonzales didn’t see a medical professional until he collapsed in a holding cell shortly before 3 a.m., Corbett said. East Texas Medical Center ambulance technicians checked his vital signs and found no life-threatening injuries.

Corbett said Gonzales then signed a medical refusal form. Pasadena police have not released a copy of the signed form to the Chronicle.

Gonzales was found unconscious in a cell about 7:30 a.m. and a medical technician pronounced him dead shortly afterward, police said.

Mignon Adams, a spokeswoman for the privately operated ambulance service, declined to comment for this story.

Surprises at the funeral

The Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office has not released the cause of Gonzales’ death to the media, but Pasadena police said preliminary autopsy results indicate he may have died after a broken rib splinter punctured a lung.At Gonzales’ funeral Friday, his relatives said they were surprised to see that his hair had been shaved and he had numerous bruises on his face as well as scabs to injuries to his head and chin.

Moreno, meanwhile, said police haven’t taken her up on an offer to take a polygraph test to prove she’s telling the truth about what she saw that night.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said his office’s police integrity division is conducting a parallel investigation to Pasadena’s internal affairs inquiry.

Moreno said the District Attorney’s Office has not called her to give a statement.

robert.crowe@chron.com

MMM Houston Protest Aug 2, 2007

 

Aug. 3, 2007, 7:44AM
Death of Pasadena man riles activists
They say man’s death in custody was no accident and want federal investigation

[Watch video of demonstration here, courtesy of Houston Chronicle.]

By ROBERT CROWE
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

While police officials watched from a distance, activists joined Pedro Gonzales Jr.’s family outside the Pasadena Police Department headquarters Thursday to demand that federal authorities investigate his death last month in police custody.”It seems that, in this state, there is zero tolerance for cop killers but hero tolerance for killer cops,” said Minister Deric C. Muhammad of the Millions More Movement Ministry of Justice. “And so, we are asking for a federal investigation into what happened to Pedro Gonzales on that fateful night.”

Police said Gonzales, 51, was found dead in his jail cell on July 21 at about 7:30 a.m, five hours after officers Jason W. Buckaloo and Christopher S. Jones used force to arrest him on a public intoxication charge.

Elvia Garza, Gonzales’ sister, said she began to suspect that something was amiss about her brother’s death when he wasn’t released from jail on the night of Friday, July 20.

“I felt it in my heart that something was wrong because I was constantly calling,” she said.

She continued to call on the morning of Saturday, July 21, but no one would tell her why her brother had not been released. Finally, at about 11:30 a.m., police officers drove to her mother’s house about a mile away to alert the family that Gonzales had died earlier that morning.

“They said he died of a stroke or heart attack,” Garza said.

In a press release dated Monday, July 23, Pasadena police stated that Gonzales may have suffered injuries while he tripped and fell as Buckaloo and Jones escorted him to a patrol car. Capt. Bud Corbett, the department’s main spokesman who also heads the Internal Affairs Division, also said Gonzales injured himself when he fell.

Corbett later acknowledged to the Houston Chronicle that Gonzales may have suffered some injuries when he resisted arrest and officers had to use force. Police said they released Gonzales from the jail at 1 a.m., but he was rearrested an hour later on suspicion of public intoxication. His family doubts he would have had time to walk to a store to buy alcohol and get drunk in one hour.

“The police were so sloppy with this cover-up that they literally admitted their own guilt by the way that they handled it,” Muhammad said.

A jury found Buckaloo not guilty in 2002 of using excessive force on a 15-year-old who suffered a broken bone when being apprehended. Buckaloo’s personnel records show he had a sustained complaint in 2001 and another in 2004, but the department has not yet responded to a request for details.

The family on Thursday showed the media photos of Gonzales’ bruised body. His hands had suffered such major injuries that the funeral home left them covered in blue surgical gloves at the funeral.

Muhammad and the family say police would have continued to say Gonzales died from a stroke or heart attack had the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office not released preliminary autopsy results saying he had a broken rib and punctured lung.

A medical examiner spokeswoman said the official cause of death is still pending.

As of Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., had not opened an investigation into Gonzales’ death, said spokeswoman Cynthia Magnuson, but she encouraged the family to contact her office.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said his office’s public integrity unit is investigating the case. Evelyn D. Moreno, a woman who called 911 to report that she saw officers beating a man where Jones and Buckaloo arrested Gonzales, said Thursday the district attorney’s office has not called her.

The Chronicle is waiting for Pasadena police to respond to nine open records requests submitted through the Texas Public Information Act. Pasadena City Attorney Lee Clark said he is still reviewing the requests.

Vance Mitchell, a police spokesman who keeps department records, said the dispatcher didn’t send anyone to investigate the caller’s report of ongoing police brutality because the incident ended within a few minutes of the call.

But the incident report shows that 25 minutes elapsed from the time of the 911 call until officers booked Gonzales into the jail at 2:34 a.m.

“If there was wrongdoing, it will be dealt with,” Mitchell said Thursday.

robert.crowe@chron.com

Audio coverage from Houston Indymedia

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