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Archive 2002

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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Thursday, July 18, 2002

Air Force recovers ordnance from Pecos bombing

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., July 18, 2002 -- One day after a house in Monahans was damaged by a  dummy bomb dropped from a U.S. Air Force jet, personnel from Holloman  Air Force Base were in Pecos recovering another dummy bomb that fell onto  a front yard near the downtown area.

An ordnance crew from Holloman AFB, along with Town of Pecos City employees and officials, gathered outside the home of Evarista Mora Wednesday afternoon near the corner of Sixth and Hickory streets in order to recover one of three dummy bombs, which were inadvertently released Tuesday afternoon off an F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter.

"My daughter called me at work and told me that there were cops here and to get home," Mora said. "I was scared. I just heard the word `bomb'."

According to Mora, she had not noticed anything wrong with her front yard due to the fact that when she gets home, she parks on the other end of the sidewalk.

"Yesterday afternoon my daughter said that she had heard a big thud at about 3 or 3:30," Mora said. "However, she forgot to tell me when I got home that evening."

The dummy bomb landed on the right side of Mora's front yard approximately a half-foot to a foot from the curb along Hickory Street and left a hole about the size of a Pecos Cantaloupe. The bomb imbedded itself over 6½ feet in the ground upon impact, officials said.

An Air Force emergency response team from Holloman Air Force Base arrived in Pecos at about 2:20 p.m. The original team of five Air Force personnel had been in Maljamar, N.M., recovering another dummy bombs that had damaged U.S. 82, the main highway between Lubbock and Cloudcroft, N.M.

That team then met up with four other Air Force personnel 10 minutes later who were returning from Monahans, where the other dummy bomb landed inside the home of Gloria Aker.

The Monahans bomb was the first to be reported, after it crashed through the roof of Aker's home and into her bathroom. The 25-pound dummy bomb then went through the wall of the bathroom and into a bedroom, before going through the floor and damaging water pipes inside the home.

The search for the three dummy bombs began Tuesday afternoon when the stealth fighter returned to Holloman Air Force Base and found that three dummy bombs were missing. At that point base authorities immediately notified the police and fire departments of Monahans and Pecos and Maljamar, New Mexico.

According to Yvonne Lukson, deputy chief of public affairs out of Holloman Air Force Base, they were able to find the locations of the dummy bombs through photographs.

"We are working from aerial photographs," Lukson said.

According to Lukson the dummy bombs are made of metal and release a puff of smoke when they land. They are used during training in place of MK-82 and MK-84 ordnances, which weigh 500 and 2,000 pounds respectively.

Lukson said that the Air Force has been investigating the incident and was working on retrieving the dummy bombs, however their main focus was on civilian safety.

"Our first concern was to make sure everyone was safe," Lukson said.

According to an Air Force news release sent out earlier this week, the dummy bombs were accidentally released from the plane, which was on a routine training mission.

Lukson explained that she could not release the details of the training mission but did say that the dummy bombs should not have been released.

In a fact sheet sent by the U.S. Air Force Base in Holloman, the bomb dummy unit (BDU) 33 is a 22.9-inches long and four inches in diameter. The blue teardrop-shaped practice munition has a metal, cone-shaped body with a cross-shaped type fin. It accurately simulates the trajectory path of larger and heavier inert training or live bombs.

When placed on the stealth, it is loaded onto a Triple Ejector Racks or Suspension Units and is locked in place by a spring-loaded catch.

If the BDU-33 is released from the aircraft, it fee falls until impact at which point it drives a plunger-type firing pin against the primer of the signal cartridge. The primer then ignites a stabilized red phosphorus that provides the flash and puff of smoke out of the rear of the bomb tube through the fin.

Most military fighter aircrafts use this low cost bomb dummy unit, which costs $13.52 per an assembled unit, for training purposes to simulate trajectories of larger scale bombs.

"This was not supposed to happen," she said.

The pilot had not realized that the dummy bombs had been released.

"When he (pilot) noticed they were missing, we reviewed the tapes and started the investigation," Lukson said.

Lukson said that the Air Force would pay for the cost to repair Mora's yard and Hickory Street, along with repairs to Akers' home in Monahans and to the U.S. 82 roadway in New Mexico.

Air Force personnel originally reported the third ordnance fell in a remote area of Pecos. However, the bomb's location was actually only three blocks west of City Hall.

"They were very accurate," Lukson said of the search crew. "We stared one block west and then began to look east."

The process for retrieving the dummy bomb began with city officials getting approval from the electric, gas, water, cable and telephone companies.

Once approval was given, the excavation began at about 4 p.m.

Though the excavation in Monahans took seven hours, retrieving the dummy bomb in Pecos only took about one hour.

According to Lukson the incident is under investigation and as part of that the pilot of the stealth will not by flying.

Lukson said that all three ammunitions were recovered with in 27 hours of the mishap. She also added that the pilot was working off a camera mission and that the house was not a target.

"The community support was superb," Brig. General Marc Rogers, 49 th Fight Wing Commander said. "There are great Americans out there and we worked with some of them."

Feds charge RCDC guard with sexual misconduct

Staff Writers

PECOS, Thurs., July 18, 2002 -- Yet another complaint of sexual misconduct has been filed against  a former Reeves County Detention Center employee in the United  States District Court.

Former Correctional Officer Sierra Ramos was terminated from her position on Tuesday, the same day the complaint was filed against her by Ronald Holland, a special agent with the Department of Justice.

According to the complaint, Ramos willingly engaged in sexual activity with inmate Eleazer Alcayaga-Maldonado, who was under the custodial, supervisory and disciplinary authority of Ramos.

Holland wrote out an affidavit in support of the complaint stating that the Special Investigative Supervisor for the RCDC had received two separate phone calls from individuals that claimed that Ramos had engaged in sexual activity with Alcayaga-Maldonado on July 8, 2002.

During those calls the individuals claimed that Ramos was responsible for hickeys on the inmate's neck, which had been photographed by RCDC officials on May 19.

In Holland's affidavit, he explained that he interviewed Ramos who said that she primarily worked the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift and met Alcayaga-Maldonado when assigned to his unit.

While there Ramos and the inmate developed a friendship which eventually evolved into a sexual relationship.

Holland explained how Ramos and Alcayaga-Maldonado would meet each other while other inmates slept.

"While the other inmates were asleep, she and inmate Alcayaga-Maldonado met in the shower and engaged in sexual intercourse," Holland stated in the affidavit. "Ramos maintained that the sexual activity was consensual."

Ramos provided Holland with a written affidavit acknowledging she was having relations with Alcayaga-Maldonado.

Another RCDC guard, Anthony Baeza, was fired and then charged in U.S. District Court last week with having sexual relations with an inmate, while three other prison employees were charged last year with being engaged in unlawful relations with inmates at the facility, which houses U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmates.

RCDC Warden Rudy Franco said that cases such as the one involving Ramos are few compared to the number of employees at the prison most of whom do their jobs well.

He said that the facility currently has 450 employees.

"Their job is primarily to protect the community by ensuring that the 2,000 inmates that have been entrusted to our care do not escape," Franco said. "They also have the obligation of ensuring that these inmates, some of whom are serving as much as five years, are treated in accordance with the guidelines set down by our client, the Federal Bureau of Prisons."

Franco praises the employees who have been with RCDC and have done their jobs well.

"Our employees do an outstanding job in these capacities. In addition they contribute significantly to the well-being of Reeves County," said Franco. "Their courageous efforts are dishonored by the actions of a tiny minority who choose to ignore their training, their supervisors' direct instructions, and engage in behavior that results in administrative terminations and in some cases, criminal prosecutions."

Franco assures the public that the actions of that minority will continue to be dealt with and prosecutions will continue.

"We will not let the actions of a very small minority dishonor the tremendous job that the vast majority of our staff do for their employer, the citizens of Reeves County," he said. "We have, and will continue to, seek out and criminally prosecute that small number who choose to ignore their continued training, direction from supervisors, and Federal Law, and become involved with inmates."

As for this case, officials have 30 days from the time the complaint was turned in to file for an indictment.

Closing arguments held in suit over railroad fatality

PECOS, Thurs., July 18, 2002 -- Closing arguments were wrapped up this morning in 143rd District Court in Pecos in a lawsuit brought by the family of a Barstow Alderman against Union Pacific Railroad, after he was killed at a crossing in Barstow last July.

Lucio Florez, Sr., died on July 10, 2001 when his Ford F-150 pickup was struck by a Union Pacific train headed eastbound from Long Beach, Calif., to Memphis, Tenn., at the Brandt Street crossing in Barstow, a crossing that the railroad, the city of Barstow and Ward County had been in discussions with over closing.

The trial began with jury selection on Monday and is expected to finish this afternoon.

Florez, 50, was headed southbound on Brandt towards Business Interstate 20 when the train struck the pickup on its passenger side, separating the bed of the vehicle from the cab section and sending it rolling about 100 feet past the intersection on the north side of the tracks.

Others in the area at the time of the accident claimed the eastbound train had been traveling faster than the mandated speed limit through Barstow when it struck Florez' vehicle.

The Brant Street crossing had already been scheduled for closure under an agreement between the city and Union Pacific Railroad. Florez had been one of the aldermen who wanted to have that crossing closed, but the railroad and the city were at odds over who would be responsible for closing that crossing.

A day after the accident, member of the Barstow council who wished to remain anonymous said that following passage of the resolution the council wrote a letter to an official of Union Pacific and sent it along with the ordinances.

The city received then a check for $7,500 for the closure of the railroad crossing.

"We know that they received the letter otherwise they would not have sent us the money," the alderman said.

The crossing was closed on July 23, 2001.

The Brant Street crossing was one block east of the FM 516 crossing, which has signal lights and is maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation. Brant Street eventually merges with FM 516 on the north side of Barstow, but is not maintained by the state along the section through town.

Larry Levario, the foreman of Texas Department of Transportation's Pecos office, said the day after the accident that it was the responsibility of the city to close the street.

"I know that when Pecos closed two of its streets, the city was responsible for its closure," Levario said.

Mark Davis, spokesman for Union Pacific said at the time that, "We cannot close the crossings" through town.

KWES to originate evening newscasts from Pecos today

PECOS, Thurs., July 18, 2002 -- KWES-Ch. 9 will be broadcasting their afternoon news from the courtyard of the West of the Pecos Museum today, as part of their "Under West Texas Skies" tour of the Permian Basin.

News West 9 will sponsor an Ugly Dog Contest and Hot Dog Eating Contest as part of today's newscasts at 5 and 6 p.m. KWES in broadcasting this week from cities not normally in reach of their remote transmissions, as part of the 10th anniversary of their "Under West Texas Skies" summer newscasts.

This is the second time KWES has originated their newscast from Pecos, having done so last July during the West of the Pecos Rodeo. The station originated its 5 and 6 p.m. news from Hobbs, N.M., on Monday; Seminole on Tuesday, Fort Stockton on Wednesday and will be in Alpine on Friday.


PECOS, Thurs., July 18, 2002 -- High Wednesday 95. Low this morning 75. Forecast for  tonight: Partly cloudy wth a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms. Lows near  70. Southeast winds 5 to 15 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy with a 30  percent chance of thunderstorms. Highs in the mid 90s. Southeast winds 10 to  20 mph. Friday night: Partly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of  thunderstorms. Lows in the upper 60s. Saturday: Partly cloudy with a 20  percent chance of thunderstorms. Highs in the mid 90s. Sunday: Partly cloudy  with a slight chance of thunderstorms. Lows near 70. Highs 90 to 95.


Eldon Gilbert and Jesus Subia

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