Latino citizen of Beaumont speaks on city violence

Video capture of Jose Carmen Perez

Jose Carmen Perez spoke to the Beaumont City Council on Aug. 15, expressing his concerns about recent violence in the city and describing a brutal attack on his 18-year-old grandson, who was reportedly one of the two parties assaulted and robbed during a carjacking at Westgate Baptist Church on Aug. 1.

The Examiner reported on the incident at the church last week. According to police, officers responded to the church at 6220 Westgate Drive, near Dowlen Road in Beaumont, after a neighborhood resident called and reported a young couple was at the door in distress.

The youthful victims told responding officers that as they were sitting in the back of the young man’s 2002 Suburban, four men approached and demanded cell phones and car keys from both victims. The male victim attempted to intervene and stop the robbery, but a gun-wielding assailant struck him in the head with the weapon. The victim tried again to intervene, and again was struck in the head with the gun. The four suspects then fled in the white SUV, which was recovered Aug. 6 on Lynwood in Beaumont.

Perez described the incident to the council, first reading a letter to them in Spanish and then allowing the English version to be read by City Clerk Tina Broussard.

“Lately, I have become very concerned with the violence and insecurity that exists in our city,” Perez said. “Not long ago, my 18-year-old grandson fell victim to a crime. A gang of young men beat him with the butt of a pistol and stole his vehicle, a Suburban, and a cell phone. We have yet to receive any news regarding his case. His Suburban was located and recovered, but not by police. A neighbor who lives near where the criminals abandoned the car notified us.”

BPD reported to The Examiner last week that they believe they have identified three of the four suspects involved in the incident with Perez’s grandson, although the men have not yet been formally charged with the carjacking. However, they were arrested in a nearby area within an hour of the incident at Westgate.

According to police, at 1:18 a.m. on Aug. 1, officers were in the 500 block of Dowlen Road and pulled into an apartment complex at 520 Dowlen Road, the Glen Oaks Apartments. They reportedly observed several young men pulling on door handles of vehicles to see if they were unlocked, a criminal trend being referred to as “car hopping.” When the men spotted the police, they attempted to flee from officers but were mostly unsuccessful. Three of the four suspects were soon apprehended and arrested for evading arrest. Police identified the three arrestees as 17-year-old Jacorry Green, also known as Korey Green, 17-year-old Stephen Michael Wilkerson and 20-year-old Deondre Guillory Briggs, all of Beaumont. All three have since bonded out of the Jefferson County Jail.

Detectives are currently searching for the fourth suspect and are investigating whether all or some of the same suspects arrested at Glen Oaks were also involved in the robbery and carjacking at the church. If so, additional charges would be filed.

Perez said that, to his knowledge, the guilty parties had not been found, and he related another separate incident in which his granddaughter was victimized.

“In October 2016,” he said, “thieves broke a window in her truck and stole her laptop and school backpack. This occurred in front of her place of employment.”

Perez said he believes the Hispanic community is a prime target for crime.

“I could list innumerable cases like these that have occurred to our Hispanic community in The Avenues,” Perez told council. “It almost seems like we are the preferred target for criminals. I have seven children; five live and work in Beaumont. I also have 18 grandchildren in this area. They are the reason for my concern.”

Perez called on the Hispanic community to be proactive and asked the city to hear his pleas for justice.

“Latinos form 20 percent of the general population and 30 percent of our schoolchildren in our municipality,” he estimated. “The primary reason for (my) presence here is to stress that our voice needs to be heard. We are a city with many problems, and we Latinos need to be a part of the solution, not just the victims.”

Ward 3 Councilman Audwin Samuel responded to Perez’s concerns during council comments at the end of the meeting, saying all members of the community must work together to achieve peace.

“Mr. Perez, this is not about the Hispanic community or the black community or the white community,” he expressed. “For years, since I’ve served, I’ve always wanted to see more participation in the Hispanic community. But we will not do that if we don’t communicate. … I hear you today. Your problem is not just in the Hispanic community. It’s in the black community. It’s in all areas of our town, but we have to work together. I’ll tell you right now, I will work with you in having a stronger voice in our town.

“I am here for you, and I will work with you. I won’t work for you, but I will work with you. I ask that we join hands, we don’t point fingers at who’s wrong.”

He invited Perez and the public to attend a community meeting Aug. 17 at 6 p.m. at the Sterling Pruitt Center at 2930 Gulf St. in Beaumont to discuss the future of Magnolia Avenue and address community issues.