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Father asks for help after son killed in road rage shooting

Father asks for help after son killed in road rage shooting

The father of a 17-year-old boy who died after a road rage shooting is asking for the public’s help in finding the person who opened fire as he and his family were driving home from a Houston Astros gameBy JUAN A. LOZANO Associated PressJuly 9, 2021, 10:56 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleHOUSTON — The father of a 17-year-old boy who died after a road rage shooting on Friday asked for the public’s help in finding the man who opened fire as he and his family were driving home from a Houston Astros game.“I’m asking for your help in bringing him to justice, and I’m not angry at him. I’m angry at what he did. I don’t know who he is … But I know he killed my son,” said Paul Castro, whose son David died two days after being shot on Tuesday.Houston police say the driver of a white, four-door Buick LaCrosse with a sunroof exchanged hand gestures with David’s father as they were stuck in slow-moving traffic following an Astros game at around 11 p.m. on Tuesday.Police allege the driver followed the Castro family for several miles on Interstate 10 before shooting at their truck shortly after both vehicles exited the freeway. David was shot in the head. He was taken to a hospital, where he died on Thursday. Paul Castro and David’s brother, who was also in the truck, were not injured.During a news conference, Paul Castro, recalled how a non-threatening hand gesture he made as the Buick’s driver tried to merge in his lane ended up triggering the shooting.Justin Brown, a detective with the Houston police homicide division, said the Buick’s driver had been driving aggressively, swerving around vehicles when he got stuck in traffic.When the driver unsuccessfully tried to merge into the same lane as Castro’s truck, he opened his door and yelled at Castro, Brown said.Castro said the Buick got “so close to me he was like almost chipping the paint on my truck.”He pointed his hands in a downward direction to signal to the driver that he had already let in several other vehicles into his lane and was just trying to keep traffic moving, Castro said.“So that hand gesture got my son executed and that’s not fair,” he said.Brown said the driver of the Buick was a black or Hispanic male in his 20s to early 30s. Police have released a composite sketch of the suspect.The vehicle had a temporary paper license plate on the back and no plate on the front. The vehicle’s tires had distinctive rims with seven holes and the headlights had an unusual yellowish color, police said.“That’s why we’re putting out this information to see if anyone has seen anything. Anything would help at this point,” Brown said.A $10,000 reward is also being offered in the case. Police say it’s possible the driver does not live in the Houston area.Castro said his son had wanted to attend either Texas A&M University or Purdue University and study chemical engineering. He also was interested in politics and public policy.“He was worried about global warming, the environment, gun violence,” Paul Castro said. “He wanted to do something with his life that would make the world better.”David’s family hoped they would be able to donate his organs following his death.“We’re hoping that his last physical gift is going to be one where other families, who are suffering in some way, shape or form, will find solace,” said Castro, who has worked over 26 years in education as a teacher and principal.He also asked for people to perform random acts of kindness in his son’s memory.“If the world were better, maybe this man who was obviously angry at something, maybe he would not have made that decision or someone else who has a weapon available in that moment of rage that’s 10 seconds long, make a decision that they can’t take back and affects another family, a community in an irreparable way like this one did,” Castro said.———Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

Woman charged with capital murder in Texas boy’s death

Woman charged with capital murder in Texas boy’s death

Prosecutors have charged a woman with capital murder in the death of a 5-year-old Houston boy whose body was allegedly kept in a storage unit before being discovered in an East Texas motelBy JUAN A. LOZANO Associated PressJuly 8, 2021, 8:36 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleHOUSTON — Prosecutors on Thursday charged a woman with capital murder in the death of a 5-year-old Houston boy she had been caring for and whose body was allegedly kept in a storage unit before being discovered in an East Texas motel.Theresa Balboa, 29, previously was arrested and charged with tampering with evidence, a human corpse, in the death of Samuel Olson, whose father Balboa was dating.Samuel’s cause of death was ruled a homicide, but the Harris County District Attorney’s Office had waited to charge Balboa with capital murder until investigating how he was killed. Court documents allege Balboa hit the boy “with a blunt object,” but did not provide additional details.Prosecutors previously said they had been testing a possible murder weapon.Robert Scott, Balboa’s attorney, did not immediately return a call or email seeking comment.Samuel had been living with Balboa since April 30, which was the last day he was seen at school. Authorities haven’t said why Samuel had been staying with Balboa instead of his parents, who were involved in a bitter custody battle.According to a criminal complaint filed Thursday, prosecutors allege Balboa killed Samuel on May 12, just over two weeks before she reported him missing on May 27. Samuel would have turned 6 on May 29.Balboa is one of three people charged in connection with Samuel’s death. Her roommate, Benjamin Rivera, and friend Dylan Walker also face evidence tampering counts.According to a previously filed arrest affidavit, Samuel’s body was kept in a bathtub at Balboa’s and Rivera’s suburban Houston apartment until they put it in a plastic tote and hid it in a storage unit on May 13.Authorities allege that on June 1, Walker helped Balboa move Samuel’s body from the storage unit to a motel in Jasper, about 135 miles (215 kilometers) to the northeast, where it was found inside the plastic tote in a room Walker rented for Balboa.After Walker helped Balboa move the body to Jasper, he called authorities to let them know where it was, police allege. Prosecutors said Balboa was on her way to Louisiana when she was arrested in Jasper.Balboa, 29, remains jailed on bonds totaling $600,000 for the tampering charge and another count from a separate case. But prosecutors are now requesting she be held without bond on the capital murder charge. Rivera, 27, and Walker, 27, were freed after posting bond.Balboa’s next court hearing is set for Monday.Samuel’s parents had filed for divorce in January 2020. His mother had primary custody, but she hadn’t seen her son since the summer of 2020, according to her attorneys.“I just want justice to be served against all those involved in the death of my baby,” Sarah Olson, Samuel’s mother, said in a statement. She planned to speak at a news conference on Friday.———Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

No indictment for doctor accused of COVID-19 vaccine theft

No indictment for doctor accused of COVID-19 vaccine theft

HOUSTON — A grand jury on Wednesday declined to indict a former Houston-area health department doctor who was accused of stealing nine doses of coronavirus vaccine from a damaged vial and administering them to family and friends.Prosecutors had alleged that Dr. Hasan Gokal, who worked for Harris County Public Health, stole a vial of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine while working at a vaccination site at a suburban Houston park on Dec. 29. His attorney said Gokal was only trying to save lives by using doses that would have been thrown away.But grand jurors in Harris County, where Houston is located, decided no criminal charges were warranted. The grand jury’s decision comes after a judge in January dismissed a theft charge prosecutors had filed against Gokal.In an interview with The Associated Press, Gokal, 48, said when he was confronted with the possibility that a life saving vaccine could be lost, he made the decision to find eligible people late at night who could be given the expiring doses.“I came as a practicing ER doctor into public health and as an ER doctor, I err on the side of life and that’s how I chose to make my decision,” he said. “It was the right thing to do and it meant saving more lives.”Paul Doyle, Gokal’s attorney, criticized the decision by prosecutors to pursue charges, saying Gokal’s supervisor had approved his plan for the leftover vaccine doses.“There is no other case that I know of in the country where a doctor went above and beyond and was persecuted for it,” Doyle said.Doyle said hundreds of medical professionals and others had written letters, sent emails and made phone calls in support of Gokal’s actions.“We respect the decision of the grand jury in this and every case. Evidence, not public opinion, is the guiding principle of our work,” the Harris County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.Harris County Public Health, Gokal’s former employer, declined to comment, referring all questions to the district attorney’s office.In January, prosecutors filed a misdemeanor theft charge against Gokal, who was fired after the health department conducted an internal investigation.A judge later dismissed the theft charge, ruling there was no probable cause in the case. Harris County Court-At-Law Judge Franklin Bynum criticized prosecutors, saying their probable cause complaint was “riddled with sloppiness and errors.”After the dismissal, prosecutors presented the case to the grand jury.While he felt relief and happiness after learning about the grand jury’s decision, Gokal said the ordeal has taken a toll on his family, as his wife’s health has been impacted and his children’s grades suffered.Gokal said he would still like to work in some capacity in public health but worries the theft accusation has put this in danger. Since he was fired by the county health department, he has worked part time in the emergency departments at two Houston hospitals.“For the time being, I’m not going hungry and my family is doing OK,” he said.Gokal said he and his family, including his two daughters and son, have been grateful for the outpouring of support they have received.“So many people reached out, helped in different ways, from GoFundMe (donations) to prayers and messages. I’ve been so overwhelmed by that,” he said.In March, the Texas Medical Board dismissed an investigation against Gokal, saying he “appeared to have administered doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to patients that were properly consented, in the eligible patient category, and they were given doses that would have otherwise been wasted.”The board also found there were no protocols for Gokal to follow and he relied on state guidance to not waste the vaccine.In Wisconsin, a former pharmacist who purposefully ruined more than 500 doses of COVID-19 vaccine was sentenced to three years in prison on June 8.———Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

Texas inmate faces execution after killing 3 family members

Texas inmate faces execution after killing 3 family members

HOUSTON — A Texas inmate faces execution on Wednesday after killing his pregnant wife, 5-year-old daughter and father-in-law more than a decade ago in what prosecutors called a brutal and senseless attack.Authorities say John Hummel stabbed his wife, Joy Hummel, more than thirty times in December 2009. He then used a baseball bat to beat to death his daughter, Jodi Hummel, and his 57-year-old father-in-law, Clyde Bedford, who used a wheelchair. He then set their home on fire in Kennedale, a Fort Worth suburb.Prosecutors say he killed his family because he wanted to run off with a woman he met at a convenience store. After the fire, Hummel fled to Oceanside, California, near San Diego, but was later arrested. Investigators say he confessed to the killings.Hummel, 45, who had been working as a hospital security guard, was convicted of capital murder in the deaths of his father-in-law and his 34-year-old wife.Michael Mowla, Hummel’s attorney, does not plan to file any last-minute appeals, saying all available legal avenues have been exhausted.Appeals courts had rejected Mowla’s attempts to stop the execution over claims Hummel had not been properly assessed on whether he would be a future danger, which is one of the questions Texas juries must answer in death penalty cases. Mowla also unsuccessfully argued the appearance of impropriety in the case as Hummel’s trial lawyer now works for the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, which convicted him.Hummel had been scheduled for execution on March 18, 2020, but that was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.Bedford’s sister, Cylinda Bedford, said she’s still doesn’t understand why Hummel killed his family. She described Joy Hummel, who worked as a massage therapist, as outgoing and bubbly. Jodi had been excited about starting school, and Clyde Bedford, who was better known by his nickname Eddie, “loved that grand baby,” Cylinda Bedford said.“Come on, your own baby. You gotta be some kind of monster,” Bedford, 54, a retired body shop technician, said of Hummel. “I don’t have no closure. And him being put to death is not going to be closure either because then we’ll never know why.”Hummel’s attorney also argued that his client suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues related to his military service that caused him to “snap” one night.But Miles Brissette, a prosecutor at Hummel’s trial, said authorities discovered Hummel had previously tried to kill his family by putting rat poison in a spaghetti dinner.On the night of the killings, Hummel stood in his kitchen for 30 minutes so he could “psych himself up” for what he was about to do, and after killing his wife, he caught his breath before fatally beating the others, Brissette said.“This guy senselessly took the life of a beautiful mother, a beautiful child and a grandfather that just did everything for them. For him to want to be single and just kill them this way is senseless,” said Brissette, who is now a defense attorney in Fort Worth.Hummel would be the second inmate executed in Texas this year and the fifth in the U.S. Last month, Texas resumed executions after nearly a year. But it didn’t go as planned: The execution was performed without media witnesses. An investigation blamed the mistake on several factors, including new personnel and procedures, along with insufficient oversight.Cylinda Bedford said nothing will make up for the loss her family still feels at Christmas or on birthdays. And a piece of her history was lost when Hummel burned down the family home where her father was born and raised and where her parents raised their children. Her family sold the land where the home stood but nothing new has been built there.“It’s still an empty lot,” Bedford said.——Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

DA: Probe into deadly drug raid ends with 2 more indictments

DA: Probe into deadly drug raid ends with 2 more indictments

Authorities say a long-running corruption probe sparked by a 2019 Houston police drug raid in which a couple was killed has ended with new indictments against two officers already charged in the caseBy JUAN A. LOZANO Associated PressJune 23, 2021, 10:28 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleHOUSTON — A long-running corruption probe sparked by a 2019 Houston police drug raid in which a couple was killed has ended with new indictments against two officers already charged in the case, authorities announced Wednesday.Former Officer Gerald Goines and Officer Felipe Gallegos, who were part of the narcotics squad that carried out the deadly raid, were indicted Wednesday for their roles in an alleged scheme to claim overtime payments for work they did not perform. Each is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity.Authorities began investigating the narcotics squad after the January 2019 drug raid in which Dennis Tuttle, 59, and his wife, Rhogena Nicholas, 58, were killed.A dozen officers tied to the squad have been indicted since then. Most of the officers face charges related to the alleged overtime scheme, allegations of falsifying documentation about drug payments to confidential informants or for allegedly lying on police reports.Goines, 56, and Gallegos, 33, are the only officers charged with murder in the raid. Goines, who was indicted on seven counts in state court, is also facing federal charges. If convicted of murder, Goines and Gallegos could each face up to life in prison.Prosecutors allege Goines, who led the raid, lied to obtain the warrant to search the couple’s home by claiming a confidential informant had bought heroin there. Goines later said there was no informant and that he bought the drugs himself, they allege. Police found small amounts of marijuana and cocaine in the house, but no heroin.“We are honored to stand behind Mr. Goines. We are eager to see the evidence in this matter and very much look forward to vigorously defending this good man in court,” Nicole DeBorde, Goines’ attorney, said Wednesday.Rusty Hardin, an attorney for Gallegos, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said the indictments mark the end of the corruption probe.“Now it’s time to get this case to trial before a jury of Harris county residents, so the public can learn exactly what occurred on January 28, 2019, and determine whether or not these defendants will be held accountable for their crimes,” Ogg said.Prosecutors have dismissed more than 160 drug convictions tied to Goines and they are still reviewing other cases connected to him and the narcotics squad.Earlier this month, Patricia Garcia became the first person sentenced in the case for making false 911 calls that resulted in the drug raid.In January, the families of Tuttle and Nicholas filed federal civil rights lawsuits against the city and 13 officers.Michael Doyle, one of the attorneys for Rhogena Nicholas’ family, has been critical of the district attorney’s office investigation.“The Nicholas family remains disappointed that the District Attorney’s Office did not fully investigate what happened before, during and after the murderous raid,” Doyle said.———Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

Boy's accidental shooting leads to arrest in Texas killing

Boy's accidental shooting leads to arrest in Texas killing

While a fatal robbery and the case of a 3-year-old boy who accidentally shot himself wouldn’t appear to be connected, authorities say the same gun was used in bothBy JUAN A. LOZANO Associated PressJune 17, 2021, 7:37 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleHOUSTON — While a fatal robbery and the case of a 3-year-old boy who accidentally shot himself wouldn’t appear to be connected, authorities said Thursday the same gun was used in both, leading police to arrest the boy’s father for the robbery.Nicholas Thomas has been charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of 37-year-old Miguel Vasquez, who was killed in front of his daughter as the two walked out of a Dave & Buster’s restaurant on Easter Sunday, four days before Thomas’ son shot himself. The boy survived.Thomas’ attorney, Walter Miller IV, declined to comment on the case.Vasquez and his 10-year-old daughter were walking to their vehicle on April 4 when police allege Thomas put Vasquez in a chokehold and demanded his jewelry before shooting him, according to court documents. Vasquez and his daughter managed to flee and find an off-duty officer who was working security. Vasquez was taken to a hospital, where he died. His daughter was not injured. Thomas did not take any of Vasquez’s jewelry during the robbery, police said.During their investigation, police found a 9 mm cartridge casing near Vasquez’s vehicle.Investigators were able to match the bullet casing to the gun used by Thomas’ 3-year-old son on April 8, according to court documents.Thomas, 23, had left the gun on a bathroom sink after coming home from work early in the morning and was changing his clothes in another room when his son found the weapon.Thomas was charged with endangering a child and had been free on a $1,000 bond when he was arrested on Wednesday in the fatal robbery. He made his initial court appearance Thursday morning.Thomas remained jailed on a $150,000 bond on the capital murder charge.Police said investigators also connected Thomas to a vehicle that was seen on surveillance footage fleeing Vasquez’s shooting. Thomas matched a description given by Vasquez’s daughter and records placed his cellphone near the shooting.———Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70