Witnesses, even former police, testified of the police hatred of Alvaro and of Alvaro’s expressed fears of someday being killed by the police and police covering up their crime. Alvaro was no stranger to the police. He had previously won civil rights suits against the Sheriff’s Department and the county for a brutal beating he had received at the hands of the police, years prior to the confrontation. Two deputy sheriffs had been convicted in Pecos, TX federal court for the criminal civil rights violations stemming from the beating. The police received five years probation and never spent a day in jail.
At Alvaro’s trial, police witnesses described Alvaro as a “troublemaker.” They knew that Alvaro could mobilize the barrio and mount serious opposition to the history of police crimes, and that Alvaro would shake the racist foundation of the white power structure in Alpine.
When the Sheriff went to arrest Alvaro at his home on July 18, 1996, it was on a trumped-up charge of aggravated robbery (and one which would later be dismissed). Sheriff McDaniel had no legal warrant of arrest, and when the unarmed Alvaro questioned the sheriff’s abuse of power, the “redneck” cop became violently angry and drew his weapon. Before he could raise it and shoot, Alvaro disarmed him and fled to a nearby mountain.
What followed next was the most massive police manhunt in recent West Texas history. In fear for his life, Alvaro eluded police helicopters, bloodhound tracking dogs from the nearby state prison in Ft. Stockton, armed vigilante groups searching for him, and other state and federal police agencies. Alvaro sought refuge in the mountainous country he knew well as a youth. Days later, Alvaro returned to his mother’s house to eat and change clothes. The police found out and a heavily armed law enforcement contingent converged on the home. Without identifying themselves, police began shooting indiscrimantely at the house, cars parked in front and at the public street lights. At trial, witnesses described the police shooting as a “war zone.” The police wanted Alvaro dead and were refusing to allow him to surrender.
To back them off their murderous intent, Alvaro returned fire in self-defense but never shot nor injured anyone. He then dialed 911 (emergency) and alerted other officials that the police were shooting at him and would not allow him to surrender. The City Manager pulled the army of troopers back, and the “shoot first-ask questions later” plot to kill Alvaro was aborted. During the police barrage, Sgt. Curtis Hines was shot in the left hand by a ricocheting police bullet.
Alvaro surrendered and was charged with two counts of aggravated assault ã one count for disarming the sheriff and one count for Sgt. Hines’ wound. His elderly mother was charged with “hindering apprehension” and jailed.
At his arraignment, Alvaro condemned the illegal occupation of the Southwest, the false charges, institutionalized racism, and reasserted his people’s inalieable rights to self-defense and to self-determination of oppressed nations. He invoked international law and demanded to be treated as a prisoner of warunder Geneva Convention principles and other human rights accords. Since his jailing, Alvaro has filed several civil rights suits against county jail conditions, police abuse, and has helped other prisoners assert their legal and human rights.
The initial charge which led to the July 18 confrontation with the police was later dismissed. Rejecting court-appointed attorneys as sellouts, Alvaro represented himself in court. He proved his innocence and exposed the police conspiracy to frame him by suppressing evidence of his innocence and testimony of material witnesses.
At the Odessa trial, Alvaro was convicted of “threatening” the sheriff, but acquitted on the charge of shooting Sgt. Hines in the hand. The web of police lises was obvious to all. Even the physical evidence was inconsistent with any theory advanced by the prosecution.
The predominantly white jury did not have the courage to acquit Alvaro on both counts as the evidence required. It would have “disgraced” the police and sent the “wrong message” to others that it is justified under law to defend oneself against the armed violence of the state. Police have ruled Raza barrios with an iron fist, particularly in Texas. They are notorious for being anti-Mexicano, especially in west Texas. In the state alone, 20,000 Mexicanos have been killed by “Los Rinches” ã the infamous Texas Rangers ã since the 1830s. Settler policies of “Manifest Destiny” have supported colonization.
Support And Resistance to Injustice
After Alvaro’s arrest, numerous individuals responded in support. Spray paintings reading “Free Alvaro! Convict the Pigs!” appeared throughout the small community, including at the First National Bank’s walls. Everywhere the police transferred Alvaro, from Alpine to Odessa to Pecos to El Paso, people and groups came to his support.
Protests demanding Alvaro’s release, spearheaded by the Barrio Defense Committee-San Jose, were staged outside the courthouse in Odessa during the trial. Barrio Defense Committees are springing up throughout Texas, under Alvaro’s leadership, as a result of the outrage. Even from the confines of his isolation cell, Alvaro refuses to back down, calling for barrio self-rule and political revolution in the occupied territories of Aztl·n.
The police/migra/military murders of 16-year-old Ervay Ramos (Alpine), Larry Lozano (Odessa), Danny Valdez (El Paso), 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez (Dallas), Ricardo Morales (Castroville), Jose Campos Torres (Houston) and Esquivel Hernandez (Redford) is a continuation of the brutal legacy of Texas Ranger-style lynchings of Mexicanos in Texas today. Raza have a rich history of resistance to the occupation of their indigenous homeland and to the colonial war of genocide against them. Legends like Gregorio Cortes, Juan Cortina, Melchor Ocampo and many other have defended their rights with their pistols in their hands. Aware of his people’s history of resistance, Alvaro has publicly state “My actions in Alpine were in self-defense in the spirit of Gregorio Cortes.”*
* Gregorio Cortes killed two Texas sheriffs in self-defense in 1901. He was sentenced to death, but Mexicanos rallied to his support and he was pardoned in 1913 by Gov. O. B. Colquitt. Corridos (ballad songs), books and a movie have been produced about Corrtes, including With His Pistol In His Hand (University of Texas-Austin Press), “El Corrido de Gregorio Cortes” by Los Alegres de Teran and The Ballad of Gregorio Cortes with director-actor Edward James Olmos. For a court case history, see Court of Criminal Appeals #2270, 2397, 2696 and Pardon #28220, Southwestern Reporter, Vol. 74, page 907.