Inquest dessa VOTOlf.. . iintSSI1/4 Larry Lozano before and after tangling with Ector County lawmen By Mark Vogler and Eric Hartman Odessa, Austin Larry Lozano died in the Ector County jail Jan. 22,12 days after a brawl with sheriff’s deputies that left him battered beyond recognition and several deputies in need of medical attention. Sheriff Elton Faught announced the following day that Lozano, a 27-year-old Mexican-American with a history of mental instability, had killed himself. He apparently “Went berserk,” the sheriff said, and smashed his head against the shatter-proof glass window of his isolation cell. Faught’s story went unchallenged in the Odessa American, the major local newspaper, but an El Paso medical examiner and reporters for out-of-town newspaper and wire services turned up a more sinister version of Lozano’s death a few days later. Dr. Frederick Bornstein, hired to conduct an independent autopsy by the Lozano family after the Odessa examiner refused to release her findings, concluded that the pattern of Lozano’s 92 bruises and other injuries was “incompatible with suicide.” The reporters, meanwhile, found sources inside the jail willing to swear that Lozano had been beaten to death by some of Sheriff Faught’s deputies. As the contrary version of Lozano’s death became staple front-page fare in Texas newspapers outside Odessa, Sheriff Faught stuck by his suicide story and the Odessa American confined its coverage to dutiful recitals of the information unearthed by rival reporters and the rebuttals offered by Ector County officialdom. Both the lawmen and the newspaper are now under increasing fire for their handling of the Lozano case. Federal and state authorities have taken charges of official lawlessness seriously enough to launch full-scale investigations of possible civil rights violations, even as a justice of the peace and district attorney John Green proceed with plans for an inquest of their own into the circumstances of the inmate’s death. At the same time, concern over the American’s seeming timidity and lack of appetite for a story unflattering to the local law enforcement hierarchy has resulted in calls for a boycott by leaders of the area’s Mexican-American community. They see a disturbing similarity between Lozano’s death and the deaths in recent years of other MexicanAmericans while in police custody in Texas; they perceive an equally disturbing contrast between the listless efforts of the hometown paper and the zeal of outside news organizations in ferreting out the unofficial version of what happened to Larry Lozano during his dozen days in Sheriff Faught’s custody. There’s little common ground between the differing accounts of Lozano’s troubles with Ector County lawmen, but on one point they agree: by the time sheriff’s deputies locked him in a cell on the night of his arrest, he’d earned him .self a dangerous jailhouse reputation as a battler. That evening Lozano slugged it out with two deputies who came to the scene of his one-car accident on a deserted Odessa street. As Sheriff Faught later told reporters, the athletically built six-footer simply “whupped their ass.” Help was summoned and Lozano took a fearful drubbing; another fight erupted when he was booked. From then on it was clear, as one Odessa attorney has said, that inmate Lozano had a real problem”he was insufficiently submissive.” THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9 Though the Chair of Free Enterprise is two years old, it remains unfilled, and a search continues for a “distinguished professor” willing to accept the appointment. Nonetheless, the “chair” is active. Late last May, using the chair as an organizing device, the engineering college sponsored a three-day symposium in Austin on “Teaching Free Enterprise in Texas Public Schools.” Invited to attend and learn how to “plan, coordinate and implement . . . courses in the free enterprise system” were school district supervisors, teachers, and educational consultants. ss No doubt we could all benefit from a better understanding of the workings system, but the stacked nature of last spring’s symposium illustrates the danger of turning such an educational responsibility over to those with narrow, vested interests. Three comprehensive lectures were devoted to the viewpoints of business, government and academia. But the arguments turned out to be virtually identical. Eric Jonsson, founder of Texas Instruments and former mayor of Dallas gave business’s view; government was “represented” by Charles Walker, a former Nixon administration official who now makes his living in Washington lobbying for many of the country’s largest, blue-chip corporations; academia’s perceptions were entrusted to economist Michael Mescon, who occupies Georgia State University’s chair of free enterprise. And so it went. The environmental spokesman for the session was Dr. Casey Westell, who works for Tenneco, Inc., and the representative for consumers was Dr. Robert G. Barnes, identified only as a former professor at Onondaga College. When it came time for a summing up, a representative of the San Antonio chamber of commerce was called on to tell the educators what materials and techniques were available to help them teach the free enterprise doctrine. As a follow-up to the symposium, the engineering school, again through the chair of free enterprise, offered monographs and tapes of selected presentations for use in Texas’ public schools. Pointedly missing from the list of available resource material was a transcript of the talk given by Ruth Ellinger, research director of the Texas AFL-CIO. Hers was the only presentation to stress the contributions of working people to the economic order. Ellinger protested the exclusion of labor’s view, but to no avail. In academia, when business pays the piper, it calls the tune. 0 Roger Baker is an Austin-based freelance writer.
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.