Politics & Policy

Something Rotten in Mexico

Our southern neighbor is a haven for murderers.

Teri March observed an anniversary last week, but it was not one to be celebrated. One year ago last Tuesday her husband David, a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff, kissed her goodbye and left for work, making the long drive from their home in Saugus, California to the Temple City sheriff’s station. It was the last time she would see him alive.

At about 10:40 that morning, Deputy March was patrolling alone in Irwindale, a desolate area of rock quarries and gravel pits 20 miles or so east of downtown Los Angeles. Detectives say he made a traffic stop on a Nissan Maxima driven by Armando Garcia, a methamphetamine dealer already wanted for attempted murder and weapons violations, a man who had vowed to kill any police officer who tried to arrest him. Garcia made good on this promise, dropping the deputy with several shots from a nine-millimeter handgun and leaving him to die in the street. A frantic witness called for help on March’s radio, but the best efforts of paramedics and emergency room doctors were for naught. David March was 33.

I attended the funeral a few days later, and the scuttlebutt passing among the gathered cops was that the Maxima had been found and the suspect identified. Let’s hope he doesn’t make it to Mexico, I said to a colleague at the time. But as it happened that’s exactly where Garcia went, and that’s where he remains today, free to roam about and enjoy all the earthly pleasures forever denied to David March.

Armando Garcia is but one of many beneficiaries of our southern neighbor’s enlightened justice system. More than sixty suspects wanted for murder in Los Angeles County alone are said to be taking refuge in Mexico, whose government is only too willing to see its criminals head for El Norte, yet inexplicably protects them when they return to hide from American courts. Though the Mexican government is corrupt from top to bottom, they nonetheless see themselves as being above this nasty death-penalty business, which we in our depravity seek to impose on such as Armando Garcia. Staking out some minute pinnacle of the moral high ground, Mexico occasionally hands over fugitives wanted for lesser crimes, but refuses to extradite anyone facing the possibility of execution.

Teri March is seeking to exert pressure on Mexico and force the government to hand over her husband’s killer and all the others currently on the lam south of the border. Visitors to a website established to honor her husband’s memory can read her story and get the latest news on the effort to bring Armando Garcia to justice.

YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS

Recall now another miscarriage of justice, this one from 1992. In a scene that brought infamy to the intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues at the outset of what became known as the Rodney King riots, television viewers watched in horror as truck driver Reginald Denny was pulled from the cab of his dirt hauler and beaten within an inch of his life by a pack of savages. One of Denny’s attackers, Damian “Football” Williams, was seen throwing a brick at the already dazed and helpless Denny, striking him in the head from a distance of a few feet, then dancing triumphantly as his victim lay prostrate on the asphalt. Incredibly, a jury refused to convict Williams of attempted murder in the attack, finding him guilty only of the lesser charge of mayhem. He was sentenced to eight years in prison, but under California’s sentencing rules he served only four and was paroled in 1997. (Explaining this to outsiders is like explaining relativity: A man goes away to serve an eight-year sentence but comes back only four years older.)

During Williams’s trial we were treated to no small bit of sermonizing from his mother, Georgiana Williams, who held forth from the front porch of her home whenever a television camera came anywhere near the place. She alternately described her son as innocent or as having been caught up in the outrage over the acquittal of four LAPD officers in the videotaped beating of Rodney King. In any case, she wanted the world to know that Damian was “a good boy.”

Of course he is.

To no one’s surprise, save for perhaps his mother’s, Damian Williams is once again headed for prison, this time for second-degree murder. Last week he and a co-defendant were convicted in the July 2000 shooting death of Grover Tinner at a South Central Los Angeles drug house. Williams faces a maximum of 35 years to life in prison when he returns to court for sentencing on June 13.

Good thing he didn’t head for Mexico.

— Jack Dunphy is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. “Jack Dunphy” is the author’s nom de cyber. The opinions expressed are his own and almost certainly do not reflect those of the LAPD management.

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