The problem with a city, like El Paso, which relies on creating illusions of reality, is that the inconvenient truth always comes out. Many of you are aware of the video of Sgt. James Brown that has been circulating on social media and on the national news circuit the last few days. It is poignantly appropriate that we are discussing the death of Brown the day after Memorial Day and a few days after I exposed the “safest city lie” that the city recently awarded itself. I believe all of these events, plus the ones I have been sharing with you about police misconduct, have created a culture of impunity that endangers the welfare of the city.

Sgt. James Brown died in June 2012, while under the custody of the El Paso Sheriff’s Department. That we are finding out about this incident, almost three years later, is further testament of how the El Paso leadership operates in the shadows. This incident also further demonstrates the incompetence of the local news media. Although the Washington Post and other national media, not to mention social media, have reported on this death, only KFOX has delved into the issue locally. As a matter of fact they were the ones to bring the death to light.

In the video, Sgt. Brown repeatedly yells that he can’t breathe to the five to eight sheriff’s deputies and at least two medical professionals that are subduing him for noncompliance. The 26-year old active duty soldier had checked himself into the jail to serve a weekend sentence for DWI. He left in a casket.

From the video it is impossible to determine how the actions or inactions of the sheriff’s deputies may have led to Brown’s death. This is because the video is not a complete record of the events and because the context of the whole event is difficult to ascertain from the video.

However, what the video does demonstrate is that the secrecy surrounding how El Paso’s law enforcement operates is key to keeping the community’s ire at bay but, more importantly, it adds further evidence to the lack of training and oversight within the community’s law enforcement community.

Taken as one video, the lack of professionalism and training can be dismissed but coupled with all of the other evidence I have been documenting over the years it demonstrates that El Paso’ lack of a professionally trained law enforcement together with an incompetent leadership is a serious concern for the community.

A serious problem that is glossed over by the city’s leadership with the help of incompetent news media outlets, secrecy under the guise of litigation and lies of the “safest city in the nation.”

The nexus to the problem is the lack of leadership from the top to the bottom.

Consider that the city’s mayor has encouraged the lie of the “safest city” through promoting a nonexistent award and follow this issue through to the county’s highest law enforcement officer, Sheriff Richard Wiles.

Richard Wiles was an assistant police chief, under police chief Carlos Leon, now a county commissioner when Leon was accused in 1999 of allowing a drug cartel infiltration of the police department. The accusation was never investigated, instead the whistleblower, also an assistant police chief, was targeted for retaliation through criminal investigations.

In 2004, various courts of inquiries were launched to investigate police misconduct. The actions of Leon and Wiled were scrutinized. Between 1999 and 2004, about 7,300 instances of police misconduct were documented. Of these, almost 25% were for excessive use of force. Two hundred and five were criminal investigations of police officers.

Although the courts of inquiry were mostly unsuccessful, they exposed many allegations of leadership failures within the police department. In 2003, the police were accused of negligence about how they handled Montwood students, who were protesting a policy change at their high school. The city paid $190,000 and agreed to retain a consultant to review El Paso police procedures.

In 2011, numerous police officers were arrested on various serious offenses ranging from sexual assault (Zake Rivera), an improper relationship with a minor (Miguel Lucero), through the numerous police officers charged with filing false police reports in the overtime scandal involving TXDOT funds.

The bumbling idiocy is also amply demonstrated by police officer Anthony Weatherbee who was arrested for allegedly stealing a DVD movie and a flashlight from a Walmart. Let us also not forget the police officer arrested for stealing cash from the wedding he had been hired to protect against thieves.

Never mind that a sitting county commissioner, prior to being elected, Carlos Leon worked for Bob Jones, who is currently incarcerated for public corruption.

The lack of professional training has been highlighted in the numerous cases that have come to light. At the center of these examples of law enforcement misconduct is Richard Wiles who rose through the ranks under the tutelage of Carlos Leon.

This system of engrained impunity is part of most aspects of law enforcement in the city. All of it supported by weak institutions and a leadership that relies on lies and innuendo to dismiss the obvious problems. Remember how in 2011, the city’s crime lab was put on probation because of its inability to reliably test the drugs used in criminal convictions? Jaime Esparza, the county attorney and police chief Greg Allen all proclaimed that the probation was not a serious problem because there was no evidence that anyone “intentionally” did anything wrong. Never mind that the drugs used to convict individuals may have been tainted by the failed lab.

Never mind that a county commissioner, Willie Gandara, is currently in jail for drug trafficking.

And, never mind that the city’s mayor, Oscar Leeser, last week congratulated the police department on the safest city award that the city created and bestowed upon itself.

What these examples show is a clear indication that training and discipline is severely lacking within the ranks of El Paso’s law enforcement community. The culture of impunity has been manifesting itself for many years under the direct supervision of Carlos Leon and Richard Wiles.

Sgt. Brown’s video is just further proof that a lack of honesty and leadership is at the core of the many instances of law enforcement misconduct especially when you add the death of Daniel Saenz as part of the evidence. Seanz died while in the custody of the El Paso Police Department at the county jail where Brown also died.

A lack of effective leadership, a lack of professionalism and a lack of training is as corrupt as the recent numerous cases of public corruption in El Paso were. The only difference is that, unlike the public corruption cases, no one is investigating them properly.

Remember that the numerous cases of public corruption cases left many other cases uninvestigated and more importantly, were not investigated by local officials but rather by the FBI.

The death of Sgt. Brown is just one more example of how incompetent the local news media is and how the city leadership is intent on keeping the façade of “it’s all good” intact by whatever means it can, including endangering the welfare of the city’s residents that evidence shows sometimes leads to death at the hands of those who are supposed to be keeping people safe.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

9 replies on “The Death of James Brown Exposes El Paso Dirty Secret”

  1. It is hard to tell what exactly happened, but it doesn’t seem like law enforcement acted with gross misconduct. They seemed pretty accommodating as did the medical staff after he was subdued.

    He may have checked in for DWI, but something else was going on with this man. Drugs? Mental health issues?

  2. Vegas, Brown notified the police he was being treated for severe PTSD . PTSD can be activated by being locked up. No consideration was given.

    Reasonable? The man was screaming he couldn’t breathe. Did we see that cause a death before ? Despite the fact that he was in obvious distress, as a minimum 911 should have been called. Blood on the glass and no concern by the deputies? That alone should have rung some common sense there was a serious problem!

    Poor training and a lack of common sense !

    I am beginning to think that there are some issues with the deputies. Problems at home, frustrated, ego, machismo?

  3. They were so accommodating, they wore riot gear and ignored his plea for his life!

    (By the way panzon Abeytia since we know that in your insecure, ignorant and common little existence you are compelled to read this blog, the video is public domain. It was not produced by the local TV station. so you’re about as informed about such legal matters as you are about the complexity of bankruptcies or contractual disputes. Stick to fetching things for Vince and Vero or trashing women. That’s the extent of your useful idiocy).

  4. As I said before, the video was all the information I had.

    If he had severe PTSD, then his attorney should have advised the judge that he needed mental health care instead of incarceration. A deputy can’t keep him from being “locked up”. Once in jail, however, the deputies have an obligation to control these types of situations and they require this type of gear. In the video, the deputies take him for medical observation. They take the spit mask off and they cool his head with water. At they end they bring in what appears to be medical personnel to observe his breathing.

    I wish this man were alive today. It doesn’t appear to be gross misconduct that killed him though. Is there a coroner’s report?

  5. El Paso is Mexico by another name and so why are you surprised, given Mexican attitudes toward law and professional procedure?

  6. Vegas, once a person notifies the deputies of their medical conditions, they should do a medical screening.

    Kinda of late to call medical after the person is not breathing and has a fixed stare.

    There is no justification for their lack of appropriate response. Again, didn’t just hear about two other deaths about
    people screaming they can’t breathe.

  7. Watching a man beg those detaining him to be able to breathe is pretty gross to me. What is worse is Wiles’ response to Sgt. Brown’s death. He claims his death was caused by a pre-existing condition. Sgt. Brown did not have sickle cell anemia. Sgt. Brown had the sickle cell trait. 1 out of every 12 blacks and 1 out of every 100 latinos has the trait. Normally these people do not have health problems related to sickle trait, but under certain stressful conditions, can go into a sickle cell crisis. Dehydration and low oxygen levels can cause a person to go into a crisis and may result in death. The video shows Brown asking for water and telling jailers he couldn’t breathe. Im no expert by far but knowing the little know about tbe sickle cell trait, Richard Wiles was right. His jailers caused Sgt. Brown to go into a sickle cell crisis, his “pre-existing condition”, that lead to his death.

  8. I forgot to mention, Abeytia is a POS opportunist who will defend Richard Wiles no matter what because Wiles claims to fight for immigrants’ rights…………….yet violates the rights of an Iraq war Veteran. Good job shit head!

  9. WTF, by no means do I feel the need to defend Wiles or anyone. I think the actions leading up to a man’s death should be scrutinized. Having said that, I did see what appears to be medical personnel attending Sgt. Brown. It appears they gave him a sedative too. He appeared to be a threat to himself and to the staff. The deputies did what they needed to control the situation. If they broke the law, however, then they should be punished and/or prosecuted.

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