Jury Faces Alvin Father David Barajas Accused of Fatally Shooting Drunken Driver Who Killed His Sons

Photo: The Barajas Family

Photo: The Barajas Family

ANGLETON, Texas – David Barajas denies killing a drunk driver in a fit of rage after his two sons were fatally struck in 2012 on a rural road in Southeast Texas.

His defense attorney says Barajas is a good man, a grieving father and not a murderer. At the same time, his defense hasn’t publicly suggested who else might be responsible for Jose Banda’s shooting death.

Barajas’ trial began Monday in a case with many complexities: No weapon was recovered, no witnesses identified him as the shooter and many in Barajas’ community have strongly sympathized with him, with some saying they might have taken the law into their own hands if faced with a similar situation.

Legal experts acknowledge prosecutors could face a greater challenge than simply proving who committed the shooting, similar to another Texas case from 2012 in which a grand jury declined to indict a father who killed a man who molested his child.

“It’s not the right way to do it, but jurors a lot of times make judgments based on moral responsibility, not legal responsibility,” said Joel Androphy, a Houston defense attorney who isn’t connected to the case.

The trial will focus on prosecutors’ allegations that Barajas shot 20-year-old Banda in the head in December 2012 near Alvin, about 30 miles southeast of Houston. Minutes earlier, Banda’s car struck Barajas’ sons as they pushed the family’s broken-down truck down a dark, narrow road just 50 yards from their home. Twelve-year-old David Jr. died at the scene; 11-year-old Caleb died at a hospital.

If convicted of murder, Barajas faces up to life in prison.

Many in the community have rallied around the 32-year-old father, including setting up a Facebook page called “Free David Barajas,” which details fundraising events and where individuals have expressed their support.

But Banda’s family says their loved one’s fate should have been decided by the justice system and no one else.

“What (Barajas) did wasn’t right,” said Felicia Leija, 22, Banda’s common-law wife. The couple has a 2-year-old daughter, Alisa, who was born a few months before the crash. “For other people to say they would have done the same thing …you don’t know what you would have done.”

Barajas’ attorney, Sam Cammack, says claims that his client took the law into his own hands are untrue, noting that Barajas didn’t even own a gun. Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne declined to comment.

Neighbors said they heard gunshots minutes after the crash, and authorities allege Barajas went home, retrieved a gun and went back to the crash site, where he shot Banda in the head.

Toxicology tests later determined Banda had been driving while intoxicated. But Brazoria County Sheriff’s Investigator Dominick Sanders said that in the moments after the crash, there had been no way to know it was alcohol related.

Witnesses have identified Barajas as the person who approached the vehicle before the shooting, Sanders said. And other witnesses said there was a man opening fire but none could identify Barajas as that person. Investigators never found the weapon, and gunshot residue tests done on Barajas came back negative.

A search of Barajas’ home found ammunition consistent with the bullet that killed Banda, but Sanders said the missing weapon could still make “a big difference in the case.”

So could the perceived moral circumstances, which legal experts agree may influence jurors. In June 2012, a grand jury in Shiner decided not to charge a father who fatally beat up a man who was found molesting his 5-year-old daughter behind a barn. In that case, the father called 911 afterward and urged paramedics to rush to the scene, shouting, “Come on! This guy is going to die on me!”

From a strictly legal perspective, experts say the Barajas case will be difficult to prosecute given the lack of hard evidence.

“The prosecutor is starting from behind the eight ball,” Houston criminal defense attorney Grant Scheiner said.

Cammack would not speculate on who may have shot Banda.

“Mr. Banda lost his life out there at the scene that night, somehow,” he said. “That is not a good thing. But to suggest Mr. Barajas has anything to do with it is a far stretch of the imagination.”

Source: NewsNet5 (Cleveland)

Channel 11 Features Dawson HS Band in Heat Safety Piece

DHSBand

KHOU.com (Channel 11) featured Dawson High School Band August 19 for their report on “How to Keep Marching Musicians Safe From the Heat.” You can view the video on their website. Great job DHS Eagle Band!

City Council Approves Slight Increase in Proposed Tax Rate

The Pearland City Council recently approved a proposed property tax rate of .7121 per $100 of appraised value at a council meeting held Monday (Aug. 13). The rate represents a slight increase from last year’s rate of .7051 per $100 or appraised value and a 5.62 percent increase over the effective tax rate of .674238.

The measure passed by a vote of four-to-one. Voting in favor were Councilmembers Greg Hill, Gary Moore, Keith Ordeneaux and Tony Carbone. Councilmember Scott Sherman voted in opposition.

City officials began discussing next year’s budget and the proposed tax rate at a budget workshop held August 4.

City Manager Clay Pearson opened the budget talks with an overview and outlined a number of funding highlights including roughly $2.5 million to be invested in an IT strategic plan that would replace aging financial systems and add two new department positions: chief financial officer and a business analyst.

Other funding highlights included $437,517 to open three city parks. The Shadow Creek Ranch sports park is scheduled to open in August of 2015; the Max Road soccer park is scheduled to open in October and renovations at Centennial Park are schedule for completion in June 2015.

Costs associated with the merger of the fire and EMS departments and the opening of two fire stations were also included and totaled approximately $820,000. The proposed budget also contains roughly $1 million to cover increases in medical premiums and $2,879,390 for needed improvements and maintenance to the city’s water and sewer system.

Pearson told Mayor Reid and the city council the proposed budget also included a 4.63 percent increase in water and sewer rates.

“If there’s any silver lining to having a drought, it’s that we’ve been able to sell a lot of water. That’s probably helped explain why we haven’t had a rate increase for six years. That’s an extraordinarily long period of time because costs are not staying static over that time. With the natural growth and expenditures we are going to need to increase the rates. We have tried to structure those so that the rate increases will not affect the small users as much or at all,” Pearson said. “The water and sewer fund is an enterprise fund; it’s a business and it needs to cover its own costs. In order to do that and meet our debt service obligations we need to have these kinds of increases of four and five percent.”

Some city departments submitted budget requests that were not fully funded.

“In the general fund while we were able to fund several supplemental requests there are $11.2 million worth of supplemental requests that are not funded of which $4.3 million of that is estimated for street and sidewalk rehabilitation with the outcome of the right of way assessment that will be forthcoming,” Finance Director Clair Boggard told the council. “I just want you to know while we were able to fund some things there are a lot of things that financially we were not able to fund for the departments.”

Pearland Police officials requested additional funding of roughly $3.4 million to hire 16 new police officers and a patrol lieutenant, expansion of the patrol car take-home program and additional money for training among other things. However, supplemental funding for the police department was scaled back to $350,639 to cover salaries for two new patrol sergeants and a crime analyst.

Two public hearings are scheduled to allow citizens to comment on the proposed budget.

The first hearing is being held Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 6:30 p.m. The second hearing is scheduled Monday, Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m. Both hearings are open to the public and are being held at Pearland City Hall located at 3519 Liberty Drive. The proposed budget is posted on the city website and a copy is available to the public at both Pearland libraries.

For more information visit www.pearlandtx.gov.

Source: The Pearland Journal

UPDATED: Ferguson, MO: Police Wives Association Request Help

badgeFERGUSON, Mo. - If you talk to any of the 200 or 300 men and women in blue who have been serving in Ferguson this past week, they’ll tell you about bricks and bottles and bullets lobbed at them nightly.

“One of my best friends got the windshield of their patrol car smashed out while he was in it with a brick. It’s a dangerous volatile situation and it’s chaotic,” said Jeff Roorda, business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association.

You’ll hear, they’ve exercised incredible restraint in the most harrowing circumstances.

“This thing could have turned into a Kent State 100 times over and the fact that it hasn’t is a testament to the professionalism of the police in this region who have stepped up in a remarkable way,” said Roorda.

The St. Louis Police Wives Association released this statement:

Our Police Wives Association is composed of wives, moms, sisters, and widows. Our mission is to assist injured officers as well as police families in the time of need. Due to the unfortunate crisis in Ferguson, please understand that our officers are working very diligently, and are committed to protect and serve our communities. Our hearts go out to the Brown family, and officer Wilson and his family. Any loss of life is devastating. We would like to raise awareness of the profound effect the situation has on the officers and their families. Every day they kiss their loved ones goodbye with hope of returning home after their shifts.  Each time they put on their uniform they place their lives in danger.  We have been overwhelmed and honored with the support of the public when we have been in times of crisis. If you would like to make a donation to assist the officers working in Ferguson please visit www.eventbrite.com and search for St. Louis Police Wives Association, or visit our website at Home – St Louis Police Wives’ Association.

The St. Louis Police Officers Wives’ Association is in great need of food donations as they’ve been feeding officers 24 hours a day, seven days a week over the last week. They are composed of wives, moms, sisters, and widows whose mission is to assist injured officers as well as police families in times of need.

The group has been overwhelmed and honored with the public’s support during times of crisis, and are asking for donations to help raise awareness for the profound effect on the officers involved and their families during this time of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

Source: KSDK and The St. Louis Police Officers Wives’ Association

UPDATE! Local Police Wife Rachel Cohen is collecting tangible items such as snacks, beef jerky, protein bars, and baby/hygiene wipes. She will pick these items up from the Pearland PD on Thursday August 21 at 7:00 p.m. These items will ship Friday. If anyone wishes to send items or even cards of encouragement on their own please mail them directly to the SLPWA at the address below. She will also take any cards that need to be mailed out if needed.

Rachel Cohen: 281-748-5106 (cell)  

SLPWA Address: Ferguson Police Dept, 222 S. Florissant Road, Ferguson, MO 63135

 

 

Little League World Series: Pearland Eliminated 6-1 by Chicago

Walter Maeker III (21) congratulates Great Lakes pitcher Joshua Houston at the end of Tuesday's Little League World Series game in Williamsport, Pa. on August 19, 2014. (Ralph Wilson)

Walter Maeker III (21) congratulates Great Lakes pitcher Joshua Houston at the end of Tuesday’s Little League World Series game in Williamsport, Pa. on August 19, 2014. (Ralph Wilson)

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – In the end, fourth best in the nation is quite the achievement.

The Pearland East All-Stars couldn’t find any offensive punch Tuesday night, falling to Illinois, 6-1, in an elimination game in the Little League World Series, finalizing another storied run by the local squad.

The loss ended an incredible summer by the Pearland all-stars, who won 16 consecutive games in the postseason and 18 of the 20 games they played.

Their effort was a great complement to the 2010 Pearland squad which finished second in the nation.

The Chicago-area team proved too much for Pearland, which saw Illinois score the only runs they would need in a 3-run first inning. Pearland’s offensive chances also went by the wayside when it hit into two double plays and saw potentially big third inning disappear.

Illinois scored three times in the first inning, using RBI singles from Marquis Jackson and Joshua Houston. The Great Lakes team also benefited from an error in opening its 3-0 cushion.

Pearland got one of those runs back in the top of the third when Brandon Sliwinski led off with a single and was doubled home by Josh Gabino for a 3-1 score.

Bryce Laird, pinch running for Gabino, advanced to third, but Pearland squandered a scoring opportunity when Houston retired the next three batters to avoid further damage.

Illinois then put the game away in the fourth inning when it scored three more times. Ed King was hit by a pitch and Trey Hondras reached on a fielder’s choice. Jackson doubled before Illinois’ fourth run came home on a wild pitch.

Two batters later, Houston ripped a two-run double to open a 6-1 cushion. He finished with three RBI in addition to picking up the win.

Pearland’s four hits came from Clayton Broeder, Matthew Adams, Sliwinski and Gabino.

Source: The Pearland Journal

[The Tribune would like to congratulate the Pearland East team! You made us Pearland Proud!]

How Much is TOO MUCH Attention at the LLWS?

AP Photo/PennLive.com/Sean Simmers Mo'ne Davis has oftentimes been treated more like a professional athlete this week than a 13-year-old.

AP Photo/PennLive.com/Sean Simmers
Mo’ne Davis has oftentimes been treated more like a professional athlete this week than a 13-year-old.

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Jonathan Newman was mad at himself Sunday night. And so, as sometimes happens when the 12-year-old pitcher from Pearland, Texas, gets frustrated, the tears followed. No big deal. Except that those tears were captured at every angle and broadcast in high-def by the Worldwide Leader in Sports to millions of television viewers, some of whom responded by calling the blue-eyed, freckled preteen a crybaby on social media.

Jonathan’s father, Mike, digested this Monday morning after some friends from home sent him the nasty posts. Then he “respectfully” responded to one of the nastier ones.

Read more…

Principal Wants to Help Students Get Back on Pace

Photo By ÂKim Christensen/Photographer

Photo By ÂKim Christensen/Photographer

John Palombo, new principal of Pearland Academic Center for Excellence, says he has a heart for helping struggling students.

PACE, 2314 Old Alvin Road, offers flexible education options and hours for students in grades 9-12 in the Pearland school district who are working to complete graduation requirements.

“Our job here is to help kids graduate on time,” Palombo said. “Most of our kids have fallen behind.”

Read more…

 

City Council Welcomes Resident Input About The Ivy District

Rendering of the Ivy District, planned for a Pearland site at Texas 288 and Beltway 8. It will include residential, office and retail, as well as a hotel, conference center and community building.

Rendering of the Ivy District, planned for a Pearland site at Texas 288 and Beltway 8. It will include residential, office and retail, as well as a hotel, conference center and community building.

The Ivy District will be a dynamic mixed-use, walkable center complete with high-end retail and restaurants, state-of-the-art offices, a conference center, modern hotel, upscale residential and 18 acres of dedicated green space.

Once complete, the Ivy District is projected to generate $3 million plus in tax revenue for the city of Pearland and create more than 900 jobs.

On the other hand, 1150 units of condos (rental and own), as well as a senior care facility could be too dense of a population for that area at this time. The area is serviced by roads that are already taxed and crowded. The are is an EMS/Police Island that is not quickly accessible from current stations. Details are sketchy at best, based on artist rendering and fluid ideas of what the combination will include.

Parks, Parkland, Green space, drainage, etc designs have not been completed and are fluid. Building plans are not set and are based on ideas and renderings. The completed project will not have a link to Kirby. Access to the Beltway will be through one-way traffic on a feeder (south then north) or through the Bass Pro parking lot.

Let Pearland leaders know your thoughts about this project!

Click HERE to email Pearland City Council today.