The Bad Shoot

Page 2 of 5

It was close to 1:00 a.m. on the 24th when Torres sat slouched on the sofa with his paintball gun on his lap. A duffel bag full of paintball junk was on the floor near his feet. Carlos Campos, like Hector not a dealer, just a friend who needed a place to crash, sat across the living room from Torres. Allen was doing his penny-ante reefer biz as usual, but the traffic wasn't heavy. Allen kicked Luis Castaneda a nickel bag of funk in the kitchen while everyone else was chilling by the tube. Then Allen approached his front door, bolted by three heavy-duty locks. Campos remembers an eerie calm before Allen let Luis out (leaving the premises is always an elaborate, slow process in dope-dealing dens): "As Travis turned the last lock on the door, it suddenly slammed open and guys in T-shirts and jeans with guns in their hands came in screaming. They grabbed Luis by the face and threw him on the ground. I thought we were getting robbed and going to die."

Detective Veloz, the first man in, got a good look at everyone as he knocked Castaneda to the floor. His gun was drawn but no one threatened him and he didn't shoot, even after Torres says they made eye contact. To Campos, Veloz's focus seemed to be on securing the premises, apprehending this bunch, and locking them up. Campos states that the detective yelled: "Get down!"

Everybody else hit the floor without a word. Torres, who was sitting on a sofa at two o'clock from the door, immediately put his hands in the air. Then Picallo spotted Hector. That's when thunder clapped three times. The sergeant, the second man in, was braced in the doorway like a movie cop, knees bent and both hands extended in the stiff-armed Hollywood stance -- Al Pacino in Heat. No warning, according to the four perps. Torres felt something like an electric bee sting under his left arm. He remembers losing feeling in his body from the shock, dropping to the floor with his back toward the shooter, and praying it wasn't the end for him.

He claims he immediately asked Picallo, "Why did you shoot me?" Realizing what might have led him to do so, Torres belatedly explained: "That's just a paintball gun!" The image that burned into Torres as he rolled on his side was Picallo's face: "He had the expression of someone who'd just seriously fucked up, he almost seemed as shocked as I was," Torres says of the frozen figure at the door. Detective Gonzalez rushed in and pushed past Picallo to see what had happened. "[Picallo] still had his gun drawn. He didn't come near me, Veloz and Gonzalez did. Gonzalez kept screaming at me to shut up, that I wasn't shot, calling me a pussy; but when I lifted my arm and the blood squirted, everyone went quiet. I could hear the talking outside the apartment because of how silent it was inside. They told me I'd be okay."

A lake of blood collecting from a gushing armpit didn't deter the cops from handcuffing Torres's hands behind his back. The resulting pain was so bad that his screams finally got to one of them, who switched the cuffs to the front.

A few seconds later the rest of the squad burst in and gutted the apartment. They found a little less than 180 grams of weed, not a mother lode by any heavy dealer measure, but plenty to charge Allen, the intended take-down, with selling felony weight (which is only 20 grams). They also confiscated two firearms, a 9 mm automatic and a .25-caliber Lorcin, along with the sticky, blood-covered paintball gun. It was turning out to be a worthwhile bust after all.

The smell of gunpowder in the air seemed to rev the cops: "I don't want to say [they] gave each other high-fives, but I think they actually did," Campos says.

The three unharmed suspects -- Allen, Castaneda, and Campos -- were lined up in cuffs along the outside wall of the apartment building. Then they were separated into different police cars for questioning.

Torres was airlifted to Jackson Memorial's Trauma Center fifteen minutes later. He was thinking of home. That's where he expected to be as soon as this nightmare was over. At the moment, though, he needed to be sewn up. But at least the worst was past.

It never crossed Hector's mind that the hospital would be a pit stop to jail. In fact his mind was elsewhere altogether. According to both medical and police reports, Det. Daniel Rivers showed up to take his statement a half-hour after Hector had been dosed with 50 mgs of Demerol and 25 mgs of Vistaril, heavyweight painkillers. Torres was enough on the nod by the time Rivers arrived to be fretting over his missing pants more than worrying about getting busted. He'd gone from crying that he was going to die, to insisting -- as you do in emergencies -- that someone PLEASE retrieve the Nautica khakis cut off him and thrown away. Most of his rent money was in the pockets, $300 cash. He was supposed to have given it to his wife Patsy, but it was impounded by the cops. Torres, stoned on serious pain-cap, still bleeding, and babbling about his pants, was hardly in shape to talk lucidly. Still that's how he made his statement.

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Humberto Guida
Contact: Humberto Guida