Herrera says drinking contributed to his reckless behavior with a gun, and that he has now been sober 8 months
Dallas lawyer Roger Herrera, a gay candidate for Dallas mayor, was convicted three years ago on a charge of illegally discharging a gun at his Oak Cliff home in 2002, according to police reports.
Herrera was arrested on Sept. 16, 2002, after 911 operators received multiple complaints about gunfire, according to a Dallas Police Department report.
The investigating officer who arrested Herrera at his home described him in the report as being intoxicated.
The investigating officer said in the report that several witnesses complained about a lone suspect firing shots at or in the direction of their residences.
Herrera, who was a member of the Cultural Affairs Commission at the time, was observed pacing in his back yard and holding a handgun and a beer bottle after investigating officers arrived, according to the report.
It also indicates he was observed leaving his residence on a bike.
Officers entered Herrera’s home after he left and found a handgun and a concealed handgun license on the kitchen table, according to the report. Herrera was subsequently taken into custody.
In an interview this week, Herrera acknowledged he has a criminal record.
The report was unearthed by a supporter of gay Councilman Ed Oakley who said he was acting on his own, independently of the councilman and his campaign for mayor. Herrera said the incident went unreported by the media at the time.
Herrera blamed his criminal record on a drinking problem. A search of public data revealed no other convictions.
“I had been drinking much,” Herrera said. “I do suffer from alcoholism. I was firing a gun. I did get arrested, and I was found guilty. It’s not something that I’m proud of, and I hope everyone reading this will realize that whether it’s holidays or what have you, we cannot be shooting off guns.”
Herrera, who was fined $1,500 and served a one-year probation for the Misdemeanor A conviction, said the incident occurred on Mexican Independence Day.
Herrera said he has not drunk alcohol in about eight months.
“It’s an everyday thing,” Herrera said. “I don’t plan to drink today, and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to drink tomorrow. It’s something I’ve always had since a kid. It’s been a constant battle, but I do believe now I’m 40 years old, I’ve got to put that behind me, especially if I want to be elected mayor of Dallas.”
When he was first arrested, Herrera was charged with public intoxication, felony discharge of a weapon and six counts of deadly conduct, according to another copy of a report Herrera provided.
Herrera said the investigating officer arrested him on suspicion of six “drive-by shootings,” in addition to the other charges.
“He made that up that I committed six drive-by shootings,” Herrera said. “He’s a very dirty cop.”
Herrera said he spent four days in jail because he was being held on $180,000 bond and had trouble making the bond.
Dallas County District Attorney spokeswoman Rachel Raya said she found no trace of the six charges in county records.
“It looks like the police never filed those cases,” Raya said.
The felony charge of deadly conduct by discharge of a firearm was reduced to a misdemeanor by the Dallas District Attorney, according to public records. Herrera pleaded not guilty, but the judge in his case found him guilty of “recklessly” discharging a weapon, he said.
Herrera said the judge in his trial ruled that the investigating officer had entered his house without a warrant during a suppression of evidence hearing.
Herrera claimed his neighbors never told police that someone was shooting at their houses, and that they only reported hearing gunfire.
But Dale Brown, one of the witnesses who testified against him at the trial, disputed Herrera’s claim this week. Brown confirmed he told the investigating officer that he had observed Herrera waving a gun and firing it in the direction of or at their residences.
“There was a dozen or more shots set off,” said Brown, whose house sat across from Herrera’s. “I physically watched him fire this gun. He fired the majority up in the air, however, he did shoot over my house. He did point a gun at cars going up and down Hampton. He did not shoot, but he did direct the gun toward them.”
Brown, who was contacted at the suggestion of Herrera, said he is puzzled that Herrera thought he would back up his claim.
“I find this odd that he’s having me trying to discredit this when I was the one who testified against him,” Brown said. “I find that totally bizarre.”
Brown said he suspects that Herrera made a threatening call to his house prior to the start of the trial. The caller, who said, “You’re going to pay,” did not identify himself, but Herrera later parked in his driveway playing loud music, he said.
Brown said he complained to the District Attorney’s office the following morning.
The investigating officer in Herrera’s case was recently fired, but his dismissal was not related to making false reports, according to Dallas Police Department spokesman Lt. Vernon Hale.
Hale said the six charges were dropped because the witnesses refused to testify in court.
“I don’t know whether they were afraid or what,” Hale said.
Herrera said he approached Dallas Police Department Internal Affairs in 2004 about making a complaint when a newspaper story named the investigating officer as one of several officers placed on restrictive duty after a suspect died in custody.
“They were more interested in contradicting me rather than listening, so I decided not to pursue a complaint,” Herrera said.
At the time of his arrest, Herrera was Councilwoman Elba Garcia’s appointee to the Cultural Affairs Commission. Herrera said he completed his term, and that Garcia ran an election campaign out of his office during his legal trouble.
Herrera said he believes the investigating officer trumped up the charges against him because he became angry about the lawyer’s attitude. The investigating officer claimed in the report that Herrera told them he was a city official, and that he would “get” them.
“He’s been fired,” Herrera said. “He’s a dirty cop, but I made him angry by running my mouth. I did bring it upon myself. I did.”
When Herrera was booked into jail and asked if he had any medical problems, he responded, “I’m as crazy as a mother-[expletive],” according to the report.
Herrera said that he had not intended to threaten a police officer.
“I threatened to expose the way they were handling me,” Herrera said. “They were rough. I was intoxicated. What I told him wasn’t in a clear mind.”
The jailhouse quote about his mental state was a reaction to the situation, Herrera said.
“Lew Sterret is a dangerous place,” Herrera said. “It’s awful. When you’re there you’ve got to kind of take on a crazy persona. So that’s part of it. The other part of it was trying to make a joke. The other part of it was that I was drunk.”
But Herrera said he is now grateful for the experience.
“I would not trade that experience,” Herrera said in a follow-up e-mail. “It was an opportunity for me to realize that I had a serious drinking problem. That was the third time and, God help me, the last time I will ever wake up in jail over drinking.”
Although Herrera unsuccessfully appealed his conviction, according to public records, he was complimentary about prosecutors’ handling of his case. “They investigated before seeking indictments against me, and they prosecuted me to the extent of the law regarding the reckless gun firing charge,” Herrera said. “Justice in the end was served.”
Brown said he was surprised to hear that Herrera planned to run for mayor.
“There’s no way on God’s green earth I would vote for him,” Brown said. “I’m shocked that someone with that background would even file to run.”
Herrera said he realized that his criminal record would be revealed when he decided to run for mayor.
“I figure if I am honest about it, if I face up that I was wrong and I’m doing something about it,” Herrera said. “I realize now that I cannot be drinking. I cannot be putting other people in danger. I cannot put myself in danger.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, December 22, 2006.