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FEATURE Are You Experienced? Video of a Police Killing Produces Shockwaves in Baytown BY JAKE BERNSTEIN I know, I know you probably scream and cry That your little world won’t let you go But who in your measly little world Are you trying to prove that You’re made out of gold, and eh, can’t be sold. So are you experienced? Have you ever been experienced? Well, I have. firth Hendrix We will never know if Luis Alfonso Torres heard these lyrics as they poured out of Baytown Police Officer Bert Dillow’s open squad car about half past midnight on Sunday January 20. We cannot ask him. Seven minutes later, Torres was dead, lying on the street, his hands cuffed behind his back, the left side of his head turning purple from the beating he had just received from three of Baytown’s finest. Chances are Torres wouldn’t have recognized the Hendrix song anyway. Not necessarily because the 45-year-old sheet metal and insulation worker hailed from a small town in the western Mexican state of Jalisco or that he didn’t speak much English. Torres probably wouldn’t have understood because when Officers Dillow, Micah Aldred, and Sargent Rodney Evans came upon him, he was a sick man, incoherent, and suffering from hypertension. Torres had in fact spent five hours the previous morning in a local hospital. Later that evening, he had wandered off in a daze, after refusing treatment from an ambulance team. At the time of his death, the officers responsible knew they had an unarmed man with a possible medical condition on their hands, but the Baytown Police have no procedures in place for handling mentally unstable or physically ill suspects. In a bitter irony, catty-corner from where the patrolmen stopped him on South Main Street was a building that housed the city’s Emergency Medical Service. The medical staff weren’t summoned until it was too late to repair what the coroner called death by “mechanical asphyxiation with blunt impact trauma.” How Torreswho had no illegal drugs or alcohol in his system, carried no weapon, didn’t run, or even resist until after he had been thrown to the groundhad the life squeezed out of him by three policemen can be seen on a remarkable video taken by a camera mounted on Officer Dillow’s squad car. “It’s bigger than the Rodney King video,” notes one Houston-based Hispanic activist. “After all, in this incident someone died.” Unfortunately, the camera is roughly fifteen feet away and the picture is dark, grainy, and often hard to see. It’s difficult to determine certain nuances: For instance, at what point exactly did they pepper spray him? Which officers are doing the punching? How much is Torres simply reacting to the pepper spray and how much is actual resistance? What are they saying to each other? \(As the Observer went to press, the sound, activated manually by Dillow, fades in and out. When it’s on, the audio is good enough to catch phrases like, “get your knee on his neck.” The horrible screams of Luis Torres are also plainly audible. 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3/29/02