Michael Barajas

Michael Barajas is a staff writer covering civil rights for the Observer. Before joining the Observer, he was editor of the San Antonio Current and managing editor of the Houston Press. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. You can reach him on Twitter or at [email protected].

Criminal Justice

How the Expiration of Austin’s Police Union Contract Could be a Rare Opportunity for Reform

Austin is the latest city where activists have sought police reform by targeting collective bargaining agreements.

For a manual on police union negotiations, Ron DeLord’s early work makes for an entertaining read. The former head of the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas (CLEAT) for two decades, DeLord has published acerbic how-to guides for police union … Read More


The Faith-Tinged Fatalism of Greg Abbott’s Response to Texas’ Deadliest Mass Shooting

Abbott and company trumpet a Biblical version of “shit happens” after a church shooting leaves 26 dead and 20 wounded.

By the time Governor Greg Abbott appeared in front of TV cameras Monday morning, a sharper image of the country’s latest mass shooting was taking shape. Officials had already confirmed that 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley had a history of domestic … Read More

Criminal Justice

Meet Nueces County’s New DA, a Self-Professed ‘Mexican Biker Lawyer Covered in Tattoos’

Mark Gonzalez is listed as a gang member in police databases, has "not guilty" tattooed on his chest and is hoping to bring reform to Corpus Christi.

Early this year, border agents ran a name-check and wound up briefly detaining Mark Gonzalez as he traveled home to Corpus Christi after a vacation in Mexico. That’s why Gonzalez says he gave the Texas cop that stopped him a … Read More

Criminal Justice

Texas Cities Embrace a Softer Approach to Pot Possession as State Reforms Stall

“How harshly you’re treated for possessing cannabis in Texas now varies city by city, county by county.”

Remember David Simpson? He was a peculiar kind of conservative lawmaker, about as fundamentalist Christian as they come, while also passionately articulating the Christian case for legal weed at the Texas Legislature. “The Bible warns about excessive drinking, eating and … Read More

2017 in Review

Excited. Delirious. Dead.

Is excited delirium syndrome a medical phenomenon, or a convenient cover for deaths in police custody?

Is excited delirium syndrome a medical phenomenon, or a convenient cover for deaths in police custody? Read More

Criminal Justice

It’s Time to End Austin’s Failed Experiment in Police Oversight, Activists Say

APD’s refusal to act on recommendations given by a citizen review panel suggests that the city's 16-year experiment in police oversight has failed.

Richard Munroe just wanted to talk to someone when he called 911 at 3:48 a.m. on July 5, 2015. Sobbing and drunk, the 25-year-old Austin man unloaded on the dispatcher. He hadn’t talked to his mother in months, he’d recently … Read More