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gin is deep inside the body. A minute goes by, as he continues to lean and someone shouts, “Relax Mr. Torres.” The mantra is repeated several times along with “We don’t want to hurt you.” At 12:31:12 the officer appears to take his knee off his victim’s neck. Torres is handcuffed now, but no longer moving. The officers are panting and talking excitedly about what they just did. At one point, Dillow exclaims, “He was hangin’ on to my leg and I couldn’t get out from under him.” Someone else makes a comment and another laughs. “They get off him huffing and puffing,” relates Solar. “They sound like boys in a locker room after a football game, talking about how he did this and they did that.” At 12:32:45 Dillow’s attention returns to Torres, laying handcuffed and motionless on the ground. “Hey, is he alright?” he asks. “He’s turning colors. Hey guys come look real quick. Get the cuffs off.” Shortly thereafter they begin administering CPR, but Torres cannot be revived. When former Baytown City Councilwoman Eva Benavides saw the video for the first time she felt nauseous. Chief Jones had arranged a showing for her and a few other Hispanic community leaders in Baytown, where Latinos comprise about 30 percent of the population. “When I saw that tape my life changed,” she recalls. “I’ve never seen race as an issue. I view everybody the same. When I saw this, racism came to my mind. I had to realize that this could have happened to anybody. The real problem here was aggression. “How can it be that all three officers got themselves into this mental mode of beat, beat, beat and nobody said, ‘Guys, this is too much’? “Every emotion went through my head, and when I left the room, I stood up and really stormed out because it got the best of me. I then went home and cried.” Benavides is sitting around a conference table at the Baytown Hispanic Chamber of Commerce with Chamber President Ruben De Hoyos and West Baytown Civic Association President Fred Aguilar. This group does not tend toward radicalism, but they are angry nonetheless. After hearing what the police chief had said to them, prior to viewing the videotape, they had expected something else. “I thought I’d see a video where something happened that we could explain and get people to calm down,” recalls Benavides. Instead she watched an incident that seemed to bear little resemblance to the chief’s statements. “What tape are you seeing?” she recalls thinking. While none of them are calling for Jones to step down, some of them want the three officers off the streets for good, and all demand assurances that this will not happen again. “Our concern is that they used excessive force and the police officers should be held accountable because a man is gone and there is a family without a father,” says De Hoyos. This is not the first time in recent memory that a Hispanic has been killed by the police in Baytown. In 1997, a Hispanic police officer accidentally shot 16-year-old Juan Carlos Espinosa, who was hiding under his bed at the time. His parents had called the police to teach him a lesson because he had borrowed the family van without permission. The 75-year-old De Hoyos was born and raised in Baytown. Soft spoken and courtly in appearance, De Hoyos has seen the situation improve for Hispanics over his lifetime, he says. Still, while this incident might not be racially motivated, it raises the specter of abuses from the past. “Back in my era, the police wouldn’t talk to you except by beating you,” he recalls. “They would put you in the patrol car and use the baton right away and nothing was ever done.” Hispanic students went to the “Mexican” school, where their teachers used physical punishment to dissuade them from speaking Spanish. They drank out of separate water fountains and could only attend one of the four movie theaters in the area, where they sat in the balcony. Today, while the mayor and one city councilman are Hispanic, the Baytown police department has yet to catch up with the demographic change in their community. Only about 14 officers out of 124 are bilingual in Spanish and English. Benavides, De Hoyos, and Aguilar hope to form a citizen’s advisory commission with the city council to review police procedures and try to preent another Luis Torres from occurring. Chief Jones is noncommittal. “That’s something we will discuss and see where it goes,” he says. Meanwhile, the death of Luis Torres continues to gather attention, not all of it welcome, according to the three Hispanic leaders. On Saturday March 9, they helped organize continued on page 13 3/29/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7 CO31’1 -C O -2 ,