The suspect in a mass shooting that left five people dead in Cleveland, Texas, was arrested last night, ending a manhunt that involved more than 250 law-enforcement officers and $80,000 in rewards. Francisco Oropesa's arrest, driven by a tip to an FBI hotline about his location, came after he was found hiding under laundry at a house in Cut and Shoot, TX, which is about 17 miles from where the massacre took place.
The Texas shooting hits close to home here at Legal Schnauzer because it revolved around a neighbor dispute, and our legal nightmare began because of a "neighbor from hell" problem when we lived in Birmingham, Alabama. Our experience, thankfully, did not involve a shooting or death, but it did involve violence (against me) and multiple acts of vandalism (which included a metal object being thrown through our window at night and an attempt to set fire to our mailbox) -- not to mention repeated intrusions on our privacy and the right to the "quiet enjoyment of our home." Worst of all, it led us on a sojourn through corrupt courts, which turned our lives upside down and started us on a miserable legal experience that would never have begun except for our hellish neighbor -- and his equally hellish attorney. We plan to discuss our experience with a "neighbor from hell," along with eerie similarities between some of our neighbor's words and actions and those attributed to Francisco Oropesa, in future posts. (By the way, there was an eyewitness to our neighbor's felony assault on me, and she is highly credible. Law-enforcement refused to bring felony charges against the neighbor, but it was a felony as defined by Alabama law.)
We, however, are far from the only ones at a distance who were deeply impacted by the Texas massacre; for Mrs. Schnauzer and me, it brought back a boatload of memories that we would just as soon not revisit. For example, we simply were trying to protect our property rights from a guy with an extensive criminal record. The victims in Texas simply wanted one of their children to get some sleep, which was being disturbed by the neighbor, Oropesa, shooting an assault rifle in his yard at about 11:30 p.m. Ironically, Oropesa reportedly has re-entered the United States illegally several times after being deported at least four times, so he also appears to have a criminal record, much like the 'charmer" who lived next door to us.
Longtime Alabama attorney Donald Watkins felt the impact of the Texas massacre, in part because of mindless comments from Texas Governor Greg Abbott, made while the manhunt was ongoing. That brought back memories of Watkins' experiences as a Black man living under former Alabama Governor George Wallace and his deeply racist regime. Watkins discusses his thoughts and feelings in a post today titled "Greg Abbott and George Wallace: Wheelchair-Bound Demagogues." Watkins writes:
After Texas Governor Greg Abbott felt the need to label the five mass-murder victims in Cleveland, Texas, last Friday night as “illegal immigrants,” I knew I had to write this editorial opinion.
Regardless of their immigration status, all five victims were innocent human beings who were violently massacred in their home by an assailant with an assault rifle -- a fact that seems to be lost on Abbott.
Abbott's senseless remark represents a new low in American politics. In his own sick mind, Abbott found a way to politicize a mass-murder tragedy that included a 9-year-old child among its victims. The child -- Daniel Enrique Laso-Guzman -- was an American citizen -- a fact that Abbott disregarded while peddling his brand of ethnic hatred.
On May 2, 2023, the suspect in the massacre -- Francisco Oropesa -- was apprehended hiding in a house a few miles from the crime scene.
How gross were Abbott's comments? Watkins spells it out:
Greg Abbott is a wheelchair-bound governor in his second term. He is a modern-day demagogue who peddles his hatred of migrants of color on a daily basis.
For the record, Abbott has NEVER complained about the hundreds of thousands of white indigenous Mexicans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Caucasians from other Central and South American countries who sneak into America illegally at the southern and northern borders on an annual basis. He only targets and berates migrants of color.
Greg Abbott is parroting the same brand of ethnic hatred and demagoguery that made Alabama Governor George Wallace an extremely popular governor with conservative white voters in Alabama during the 1960s and 1970s. It's the same old song, but Abbott is the newest gubernatorial singer.
Apostles of hatred have been among us since the first group of European peasants stepped onto American soil in 1612 -- without any immigration papers. Abbott and Wallace just happen to be the most prominent wheelchair-bound apostles of hatred in the last 60 years.
Wallace died on September 13, 1998.
Watkins has vivid memories of George Wallace and saw him up close -- as we will see in a moment. But first, we note that Watkins sees parallels between the George Wallace of yesteryear and the Greg Abbott of today. And it goes beyond wheelchairs.What lessons can we take from this? That abuse of power has consequences, Watkins says:
So, the burning question of the day is: What should we do about Governor Abbott and his ethnic hatred? My answer is: "Nothing."
In July of 1985, I was trying the case of United States v. State of Alabama. This is the case that fully desegregated all aspects of the state’s 32 senior public colleges and universities.
During the trial, the plaintiffs called Gov. George Wallace as an adverse witness. When we took a break during Wallace's testimony, I noticed that he was grimacing with excruciating physical pain.
I stood over George Wallace as he sat in his wheelchair and we engaged in small talk. As I looked down on him, all I could think about was his gross mistreatment of Blacks during his first two terms in office.
This was the man who stood in the door of Foster Auditorium in 1963 to block Vivian Malone and James Hood from registering as students at the University of Alabama. This was the man who declared in 1963 that: "I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."
Wallace became the proud national symbol of massive resistance to school desegregation and civil rights for blacks in the South throughout the 1960s and much of the 1970s. He spent most of his time sending messages of defiance to the Washington crowd that enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
Wallace once claimed that "thugs and federal judges have just about taken charge of this country," and that he was the "political barbed-wire enema" these judges needed.
On this day in July of 1985, I was standing over Wallace in a Birmingham federal courtroom, and he was wheelchair-bound. I knew that Wallace would never be able to stand and block progress for blacks in Alabama again, either physically or by using the power of his office.
Wallace looked up at me as if he knew what I was thinking and volunteered this poignant comment: “I know you think God is punishing me for what I did to your people. The pain in my spine is unbearable. The pain pills don’t do much good anymore. I am already in a living Hell.” I didn't say a word because I knew his confession was true.
When I look at Greg Abbott today, I see George Wallace in his wheelchair, all over again. The excruciating pain is in Abbott's face, just like it was present on Wallace's face that fateful day in 1985.
|Greg Abbott and George Wallace|