Deputy Do-Wrong

Lewis Perry slipped through BSO's porous screening process. For the Gomez family, the results were tragic.

The Broward State Attorney's Office is scheduled to present a criminal case against Perry to a grand jury in July.

Germán Gomez seems out of place at the Manor Pines Convalescence Home in Wilton Manors, which has been home for the many months since he was well enough to leave the hospital. Most of the residents are 40 years his senior, recuperating from the kinds of surgeries or conditions that keep elderly people from living on their own.

Deputy Lewis Perry
Deputy Lewis Perry
Gomez's brothers, Jesus (right) and  Galindo (left), hope he recovers enough to return to Chiapas, Mexico, to see his wife and two small children.
Colby Katz
Gomez's brothers, Jesus (right) and Galindo (left), hope he recovers enough to return to Chiapas, Mexico, to see his wife and two small children.

Gomez, at 26 years old, is baby-faced, with a full shock of black hair. He combs those locks over the long, bald scar on his head. On a recent afternoon, he's sitting in his private room with two of his brothers, the older Jesus and younger Galindo. Short, sober men, with a sense of palpable grief about them, they all wear dress slacks and short-sleeved dress shirts whose combined colors make up a red, white, and blue display. They speak only Spanish.

Although they'd pinned so much hope for the future on working in America, their desire now is that their brother get well enough so they can take him back to Chiapas.

Gomez maneuvers in the way a stroke victim would. He doesn't have full control of his right arm and leg; he's barely able to shake hands. He has trouble hearing out of one ear and seeing out of one eye. It takes him long moments to process a question.

"Right now, my head is not the way it used to be," he says in a slow voice, as though running on a nearly dead battery. "It's not totally fine. When I try to read for five or six seconds, the pain comes, the headaches." He has come to rely on pain pills, and if the staff doesn't bring them in time, he limps his way through the hall to find them. "I can't deal with the pain."

Gomez has difficulty recounting the long and harrowing journey from Chiapas to Pompano Beach, but several weeks later, his two brothers fill in the missing pieces while seated in the living room of their Pompano Beach apartment. The room is sparsely decorated, its white walls smudged with fingerprints; one of the few wall hangings is a framed team poster of the Pumas, a Mexican soccer team. The carpet is grimy in the way one would expect from the footfalls of so many men who work outdoors. There are 14 men living there now. The view out the second-floor balcony is of I-95 traffic zipping past a mere 200 feet to the east.

Jesus, who possesses the serious deportment of an older brother, does most of the talking. A family of four brothers and six sisters, the Gomezes are no strangers to living in close quarters. Their family homestead is in Santa Rita, an ejido, a communally farmed plot of land. In one of the poorest parts of Mexico, they grew up harvesting coffee and tending to fields of corn and beans.

America beckoned as the opportunity to earn enough money to get proper medical care for their father, Armando, who suffers from heart disease, Jesus said. Germán and Jesus also dreamed of one day building their own houses back home. Germán's wife, Maria Velia, waits at home with a 2-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. Jesus has a 7- and 5-year-old. They all live together with their father-in-law.

The month-long odyssey to South Florida began with Jesus, Germán, and Dominguez traveling through the length of Mexico, first by bus, then taxi, then two airline flights to Hermosillo, a desert town about 150 miles south of Arizona. After they sneaked across the border, they began the most dangerous part of their trip — walking about 70 miles on trails through the Arizona desert to Tucson.

Jesus and Galindo are visibly pained as they recall their passage through the desert. Shortly after crossing the border, they were spotted by crossing guards. In their mad dash to escape, they lost much of their water, Jesus says. As they plodded along, day after day, they stumbled upon a decayed corpse, horrifying evidence that they just might not survive this crossing. A man or a woman? Both shake their heads in revulsion, indicating they hadn't looked closely enough at the body to determine its gender.

Toward the end of the ten-day march, they were without food or water, and their wills were all but broken. "We were close to dying of thirst," Jesus says.

When a Border Patrol helicopter passed overhead, they waved, hoping it would pick them up and end their suffering. The chopper dipped, gave them a once-over, then flew off. But they were young, healthy, and lucky. They made it to Tucson, where they rested at the home of friends, waiting for five days for an acquaintance of their cousin's to pick them up and drive them to Pompano Beach.

After a journey that covered almost 4,000 miles over four weeks, they took one day off to rest. Then they went to work.

Jesus recalls the day of the shooting. He, Germán, and Dominguez had gone to a nearby labor pool office in the morning. The latter two had gone off to a construction site, and Jesus had gone to another. Jesus arrived back at the apartment first, and shortly after, he heard a flurry of activity outside. He and others from the building walked toward the police lights.

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