donaldrobertsonLeif Reigstad

Donald Robertson was blindsided. He was stopped at a red light on the North Sam Houston Parkway East frontage road on June 24, 2006, his patrol car next to a big white van sitting in the inside lane. The light turned green. As Robertson entered the intersection, a blue 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix sped through the stoplight — then brakes squealed and screeched as the Pontiac slammed into the patrol car’s front passenger side, throwing Robertson and his white Chevrolet Impala into a concrete barrier 15 yards away.

It was the worst jolt Robertson had ever felt in his life, and the first accident he’d ever had while on patrol in his 17 years working as a Harris County Sheriff’s deputy. His neck hurt like hell; his right leg was pinned by a toppled computer console. A plume of smoke rose from his battered car. He wanted to turn his head, but his body wasn’t responding to what his brain was telling it to do. He tried to lift himself, gripping the steering wheel and hoisting himself up using his upper-body strength, but every time he tried, he could feel his torso separating from his head, causing him to lose his breath and slip in and out of consciousness. It didn’t take him long to realize his neck was badly broken.

The crash gave Robertson a type II Odontoid fracture, left a four-inch laceration on his right knee and temporarily blurred his vision with floaters. Doctors at the hospital told him he needed emergency surgery to realign his neck with the rest of his body. It was a dangerous procedure. Paraplegia or quadriplegia: Those were two possible outcomes. A third was death. Robertson had no choice. Miraculously, he survived the surgery. But he was hardly made whole again.

Hurt and unable to work, Robertson was immediately placed on worker’s compensation. His supervisors repeatedly assured him he would have a place one day again with the sheriff’s office. His time working as a patrol deputy — his dream job — was almost certainly over, but many injured deputies return to work simple desk jobs. Whenever Robertson would call the county or the sheriff’s office, worried he would lose his job while he recovered, he was always told not to worry, to just focus on getting better. Law enforcement takes care of its own.

In 2012, Robertson was blindsided again. Two weeks before Christmas, he received a letter from the sheriff’s office in the mail. “An administrative review reveals you have been absent from duty since June 24, 2006, after having been placed on Worker’s Compensation due to an injury,” the letter said. “As of the date of this letter, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office has not received any correspondence from you or Worker’s Compensation concerning your ability to return to active duty at this time. Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s Office is left with no other recourse but to grant you an administrative dismissal, effective the date of this letter.” The letter instructed Robertson to turn in his badge. After more than two decades of serving in the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and nearly losing his life on the job, Robertson was suddenly kicked to the curb.

flowersmemoryMeagan Flynn

Against boarded up windows and smoke-stained white bricks rests the memorial for Karen Perez. Candles, crosses and Bible verses and a flurry of pink and red flowers decorate the ground. Stuffed bears are tucked in the branches of two trees, serving almost as pillars framing the memorial site. And what appears to be Perez’s quinceañera photo is nailed to the boarded window — the surrounding messages of love and flowery tributes contrast eerily with the deteriorated building and what happened inside.

In May, Perez’s teen boyfriend brutally raped and murdered her in one of the vacant apartments, prosecutors allege. Though the South Houston Police Department claimed they searched the abandoned lot and failed to find her body, a Texas Equusearch crew found Perez stuffed underneath a kitchen sink.

The boyfriend’s cellphone records would later prove he had threatened to kill Perez if she did not skip school with him to have sex with him that day. He recorded nearly the entire attack on his phone, as Perez pleaded with him, saying, “I don’t want to die.” (He reportedly admitted to the murder after the records surfaced).

Now, after Perez’s family and community members have demanded the vacant lot be demolished, Perez’s mother, Rocio Perez, is suing the apartment building’s owner, 1600 Avenue M LLC, claiming that, had they taken reasonable precautions to secure and monitor the building, her daughter would still be alive today. Since it’s directly across from South High School, where Perez was a freshman, attorneys argue that the owners’ lack of precautions were grossly negligent, and they should have reasonably anticipated teenagers and other trespassers partaking in dangerous criminal activity as a result.

The University of Texas Board of Regents approved the university system’s largely restrictive campus-carry rules Wednesday, striking down only one controversial provision.

 At UT-Austin, professors will be able to prohibit guns in their individual offices; the school is the only public university in the state to adopt this rule. The board of regents won’t, however, move forward with a rule that would have banned gun carriers from having any chambered rounds in their semiautomatic handguns anywhere on campus. UT-Austin President Gregory Fenves argued that keeping the chambered rounds out of guns would be safer, guarding against accidental discharges — but the board apparently didn’t buy it.

The no-chambered-rounds ban would have forced gun carriers to manually cock pistols before firing.