Join Date: January 8, 2001
Location: Forestburg, Montague County, T
Neighborhood fears flare up
Tension over race and crime rise to surface after teen’s killing
By MOISES MENDOZA
Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
June 18, 2009, 10:28P
Meannine Orr moved to a street called Susanna Lane in north Harris County to get away from it all nine years ago.
But in the last few months, the 76-year-old has been too afraid to leave her home in this place people call Heidi’s Crossing, a leafy neighborhood with tidy mobile homes.
“It’s those people over there,” Orr said Thursday gesturing a street over toward Jimbo Lane. “They need to leave our neighborhood.”
A shooting a few houses down from Orr Wednesday morning created a frenzy of fear here, pitting neighbor against neighbor and leaving residents afraid to leave their houses.
Police say 69-year-old Dwayne Austgen shot Vidal Herrera after the 17-year-old confronted Austgen at his house in the 5500 block of Susanna Lane.
The case will likely be presented to a grand jury once authorities are done investigating, but Austgen has not been charged with a crime.
Herrera lived within walking distance on Jimbo Lane — known among some in the area as the “Hispanic street.” Austgen lives on a mostly Anglo street.
On Susanna Lane, many say Austgen was just protecting himself from a bad apple who wanted to rob him.
On Jimbo Lane, some believe the shooting has roots in racial tension.
• • • •
One thing most agree on: It was a matter of time before something went wrong here.
Over the last few months, burglars have hit a raft of cars and houses on Susanna Lane.
Many neighbors point to Herrera. They say he had a bad heart and stole things with friends.
Janie Witcher, for instance, suspects the boy took her sons’ bikes.
A neighbor once pulled a gun to scare him away, but Herrera just laughed, she said.
Said Heather Koenig, 24, who moved here about two years ago: “When I moved here they told me it should be called ‘The Devil’s Crossing,’ not Heidi’s Crossing.”
One day, Koenig said, she found her two dogs had been poisoned and killed but she’s not sure who did it.
Herrera had been bugging Austgen lately, despite the fact that the man is feeble and sometimes needs oxygen to breathe, neighbors said.
So with her street’s history in mind, Witcher believes Austgen was defending himself Wednesday.
“I mean we were all terrified of those kids, even my husband is terrified,” said Witcher, who lives with her four children, a grandchild and her husband.
A woman who identified herself as Austgen’s wife at his home said the shooting was a “tragedy and we’re sorry it had to happen.” She said her husband didn’t want to speak to the media.
• • • •
On Jimbo Lane, Herrera’s family put on black ribbons Thursday as the boy’s mother, Evelia Herrera, sobbed on the front porch and tried to plan a weekend funeral.
Her son — her only son — was a good boy, she said.
He cooked food for her and dreamt of being a mechanic.
Herrera was in the ninth grade but he wasn’t involved in drugs and he never stole things, family members said.
“It’s not right, it’s not right,” said his sister, Marisa Peralta, 20. “I don’t know why my brother was over there, but I know for sure he wasn’t bad. He was probably just defending himself.”
There’s been tension in this neighborhood between the whites and Hispanics for a long time, said Peralta.
“They say we’re bad people but it’s not true,” Peralta said. “The people over there always tell us bad things and call us names.”
Names like “wetback” said Angel Hernandez, a 12-year-old who lives on Jimbo Lane.
Once, the boy said, he got in a fight with people here because they called him names.
Most people on Jimbo Lane long ago learned it’s best to stick to themselves. That’s what Valentin Ramos does.
“We don’t really go out, we just stay in our house. There’s always extremists of every race, and I don’t have a problem with anyone here,” said Ramos, a preacher who’s lived here for about five years.
A sergeant in the Sheriff’s Office district which oversees the neighborhood said he didn’t think the neighborhood had unusual problems. He referred further comment to a detective investigating the shooting who did not return messages.
• • • •
Witcher said the race issue is a red herring. What matters, she said, is the fear her neighborhood has been under for months.
“It doesn’t matter if he was black, white or purple, everyone knew what this kid was doing,” she said.
This weekend Witcher plans to send her children away from the neighborhood. Orr said she’ll lock herself in her house, like she does every day.
“I don’t go out, I don’t talk to them over there,” she said. “I’m afraid.”
So we get the usual argument of the dead person being a good kid, never involved in anything bad, etc. and also that he is a 17 year old 9th grader. If correct, that makes him a very OLD 9th grader. Something isn't right.
His picture is at the link above. He isn't a small, withered crackhead by any stretch. He looks to be in good shape.
"If you look through your scope and see your shoe, aim higher."
-- said to me by my 11 year old daughter before going out for hogs 8/13/2011