How I became a witness to capital murder

I saw the pizza delivery man head upstairs to hand someone their pizza. I didn’t expect to see him lying unconscious behind our car one minute later.

We get dragged into so many weird things in our lifetimes. You don’t expect it. You don’t even not expect it because it just never comes as a possibility until it’s happening before your eyes or lying in the parking lot at your feet. I simply glanced up at the right moment, then bam, I’m a witness to a capital murder.

Driving school has been going very well. I have six hours under my belt and plan to test for my permit today in order to begin my in-car lessons. I can’t wait to get on the road, but what could be more discouraging than witnessing a car jacking that resulted in the death of a man doing his job?

We got home around 8:30 PM after Mauricio picked me up from driving class. Due to some difficulties with leaving Sagan (our new pup) in Eagle Pass with Mauricio’s parents (and their pesky dog), we end up having to leave her home alone for about eight hours two days out of the week and about six hours the other two days. She’s done a good job of not having any accidents inside. As soon as we get home I rush to take her outside to do her business. It was a normal evening walking my freakin’ dog! We were just outside our apartment, when I see the pizza delivery man going up the set of stairs down at the other end of our building. I said to myself and to Sagan, “I want some pizza, Sagan.” Soon after that we went inside. I gave her a couple of treats and got to my knees to pet her and coo at her. Thats when I happened to glance up and see the silver Toyota Camry (as we found out later) hit the back of our car, back out into the opposite parking space behind ours, and take off down to presumably leave the apartment complex. Our car, parked straight in front of our apartment ended up parked diagonally across two parking spaces after the hit.

There were a mix of emotions swelling in my chest. I was concerned, pissed because the person fled, and scared because I didn’t know what to do other than yell for Mauricio. It was like I told the detective at the homicide office, “I would have called the 911 eventually, but for that quick second I couldn’t register much of anything other than that Mauricio needed to see what happened to his car.

I lunged from the floor of our apartment to the back door leading to our porch facing right where everything happened. The license plate number was what I was going for, but it all happened too fast and that guy hauled his butt out of there. That’s the really messed up part. Maybe for a fraction of a fraction of a second I considered, “hey, maybe he’ll stop and come talk to us about his mistake.” No, judging by the way the body of the car rocked back and forth, side to side as if it were a person wracked with spasms, he wasn’t stopping to talk to anyone. The car lurched out of there. The movements of the car, so harsh, was such an ugly scene. Our own car had been moved an incredible amount, it was scary. Some people are this fucked up.

After running out in an attempt to catch the car’s license plate, another young man had run up behind our car shouting, “call the police, call the police!” I figured he saw what happened and wanted to help. Then he told me, “call the police, there’s a man here.” My face. I have no idea what my face did. Maybe my jaw dropped a little, my hands were limp. I was stunned by the man’s words. I called 911 at 8:48, jumping the rail of our porch and stammering for them to bring “EMS, police, everything.” How do you choose who to bring to the scene of a crime? I mean, how do you even decide for yourself what a man near death needs? Of course he needs all the help he can get, I don’t know, everything. The entire incident took place within seconds, likely around 8:47, as I told the detective, because I had seen the pizza delivery man alive and well and unsuspecting only a minute earlier before the incident.

When I saw the pizza delivery man again (I don’t know his name, only that he worked for Papa John’s as we saw on his dirtied work uniform) he was lying on the ground behind our little blue Hyundai Elantra, his legs at unnatural angles and some other area of his thigh bulging out under his khakis, his feet dressed in what I think were loafers pointing limply away from us to our left. The thief and murderer left him like this, belly up in an eroding parking lot of a Northwest apartment complex, where people walk their dogs and where kids ride their bikes or run back and forth from the pool. Nothing in the year we have lived here has ever hit us this hard. It was one of those moments where a community comes together, but for all the wrong reasons.

The young man who had urged me to call 911 and I stood in awe at the site before us. Mauricio showed up seconds later followed by another woman who drove up. A small crowd quickly gathered, people from our building and others from neighboring buildings. The woman who had driven up got down to gently take the man’s pulse. “He’s dead. I don’t feel a pulse.” Oh my god, I just witnessed a man die. We figured his heart must have beat for just a little after the hit he took, but then he died before us.

Seeing a dying body, twitching and reacting to death with guttural choking sounds, is nothing like the videos we see online of mutilations or post-accident injuries on a roadway. We look for that shit like it’s the roadkill we hungrily seek out to identify as we drive down the interstate to our hometowns. For a second I thought the pizza delivery man was coming back or regaining consciousness, yet I had hoped he wouldn’t wake up to realize the pain he must have been in if he were alive to feel it. Then the woman who had taken his pulse said it was merely postmortem reflexes signaled from the brain that were causing his body to move. I don’t know, but I had never seen a sight like this before. I had never been involved in an incident like this. I had never even been the person to call 911 in an emergency. Well, there’s my first dose.

The woman who took the pulse, or lack of it, then said to everyone, “You have to appreciate life” and that it’s so short, yada yada yada. What could be more disrespectful a statement to make before a dead or dying body? The man lying here can’t appreciate shit anymore, he’s done! Don’t lecture me here as I’m standing by and watching dead man like a babysitter waiting for parents to come pick up their baby. I didn’t want to hear any of this carpe diem crap that people like to spew out at every life crisis. However, at the moment, I had to agree with her. We all stood by concerned and waiting for authorities and help to arrive.

A fire engine and an ambulance were the first to arrive. I see them come through here all the time, but I never fathomed that i’d be the one waving them down to our spot. I don’t know how these men and women handle this job of saving injured people, or at least attempting to. This isn’t even a matter of “hats off to” or “kudos” to these people for being able to handle and stomach tragedy and injury for a living. There’s nothing congratulatory in this.

The image I can’t shake is that of the pizza delivery man’s stomach, white with light blankets of hair, violently pulsating under the EMS worker’s hands as she tried to revive him. It shook and rolled under every pump to his chest. Later on after had been carted off I was told by an older lady standing around in the crowd that they had at least gotten a heartbeat. I don’t know if they really did or if the woman only assumed it. All i know is that the man was later pronounced dead at University Hospital.

In fact, I only found out he died once I signed my statement at the homicide office that stated “capital murder.” Another witness and I were taken to give our stories. The entire ride from our apartment on the northwest side to the police station downtown I remained hopeful and even believed the man would make it through at the hospital. I thought he had survived and this was going to be a hit and run and theft case. At one point while I was sitting with the detective he said to another offer or detective, “they’re calling it capital right now.” Were they talking about this case that I was giving my statement for? I was in doubt. Maybe I didn’t want to believe it. Regardless, the outcome of this night’s incident dawned on me when I was reading over my statement and read in the black, arial font that this was a capital murder. Shit. The man who I had seen alive and bounding up the stairs with a few pizzas was dead, had died at some point during the night after succumbing to his injuries. I just heard on the news that he acquired head trauma and internal injuries.

What struck me the most was the span of time between the moment I saw the pizza delivery man and the time of the incident. One minute. Bad things can happen so fast. There’s no precipice where one stands before death. It just falls on you. Death just falls on you. It happens and you don’t even know it happened to you. That’s what sucks. You don’t even know and you’ll never get another chance to know it.

Yes, the dead man before me has had an immense impact on my mental health and led to nervous ticks throughout the night. It was a lot to take in. But even scarier was the time it took for all of this to happen. Everyone online is saying that they hope the robber rots or should be burned at the stake. What’s the freakin’ use of all this hatred and hopes of cruel justice? Of course I want him to be caught, but what about the man who died? He gets nothing. Sure, you can say he achieves justice when the robber is in custody, but he’ll never know it. What good does it do him now that he’s gone? He was doing his job, a pizza delivery driver at the age of 46, when he’s suddenly handed this fate. Who knows what his life was like. Judging by his age and type of job he held I would assume he was simply trying to make ends meet. I would have loved a great recovery story, but we’re not getting that.

Last night we had trouble going to bed. I thought I was going to wake up and nothing was going to be normal, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to function normally, but I woke up. I felt a bit foggy, hazy from the nervous breakdown following my arrival bak home from the police department. I had held it in, all the panic, for three hours until I was finally inside my own home again. I got up and made breakfast. Eggs Mini’s, eggs, and a side of seedless green grapes. It was a shockingly normal experience waking up the next day. Of course the previous night’s events didn’t leave our minds, but we realized the world did continue to revolve.

It’s weird, seeing other news stories the next day. I realized one tragedy is flooded out by three others every day. I want to scream, “hey, this happened and I’m still reeling from it. It matters still, don’t forget it.” But the local news has moved on just as everyone else in the world has. It such a different experience when you’re there. The news story doesn’t just refresh three stories beneath the latest headline. It stays there for those who witnessed it or we’re impacted by it. At this point Mauricio and I have been interviewed by KSAT and Telenoticias, respectively. Yeah, I just had to get the Spanish station. We want to make this as clear as possible for others.

All of my respects and well wishes to the man’s family and friends and coworkers. I don’t even know his name and I met him at one of his most intimate moments in life, when he was leaving it. You never expect any of this to happen.

Here’s the news story that first came out last night:


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