The Strange Power of Fred Carrasco

The evil men do lives after them, and in unexpected places. 

About noon on the day after Fred Carrasco seized ten hostages and garrisoned himself in the library of the Huntsville prison unit known as The Walls, a lean and lighthaired male citizen, 29 years old, left Austin for the San Antonio offices of James Gillespie, Carrasco’s lawyer. The latest news across the AP wire was that Carrasco had demanded additional weapons and body armor by three o’clock or he would kill his hostages. The citizen had reason to believe that phone contact might be made between Gillespie in his San Antonio office, Governor Dolph Briscoe in his Austin office, and Carrasco in the prison library. The citizen wanted to sit in Gillespie’s office and listen during these calls.

He left for San Antonio with some reluctance but was spurred on by something more than idle curiosity. Last March, after Carrasco had been sent to Huntsville, the citizen had spent a long month running around San An­tonio trying to piece together the story of Fred’s life. The project was a grim one. Fred had left a bloody trail from San Antonio to Nuevo Laredo to Guadalajara and back to San Antonio again. Estimates about the number of men Fred had either killed or ordered killed ranged from a high of 57 to a low of 40. His first was when he was eighteen; a young girl lured a man out of a San Antonio dance hall and Fred shot him. Antonio de la Garza, who would later be a lieutenant in Fred’s heroin smuggling operations, wit­nessed the killing. That was in 1958. In September of 1971, Fred had de la Garza killed. He chose another lieutenant, Pete Guzman, for the job. Guzman not only killed de la Garza but also mutilated his pregnant wife. About a year later, after Guzman had started bragging that Fred was now taking orders from him, he was found in a ditch in Mexico dead from 45 bullet wounds. Many of Fred’s kill­ings were like that—murders of gang warfare, murders in response to real or imagined affronts, murders of discipline within the gang—and no amount of friendship or service was insurance against Fred’s blood lust: the murdered de la Garza had known and worked with Fred for fifteen years.

Fred served two years for the dance hall murder and was paroled in 1961, but in April of 1962 he received eight years for possession and sale of heroin. After serving five years of that sentence he was paroled in 1967 and re­turned to San Antonio. For the next five years he and his gang, who called themselves the Dons, dealt in increasingly large amounts of heroin while Fred, now a fugitive for violating his parole, split his time between San Antonio and Nuevo Laredo. His presence on the border ultimately caused open warfare as Fred tried to expand his power over two older Nuevo Laredo gangs, the Gaytans and the Reyes-Prunedas. The fighting became so violent and so open that in the spring of 1972 the Mexican government sent squadrons of federal troops into the city. The rival gangs were, by this time, either arrested or dead or in ex­hausted disarray, and by fall the fighting was over. (See “ The Laredo-San Antonio Heroin War,” Texas Monthly, August 1973.)

Fred found himself caught between what was left of the two older gangs and the federales, and he got into further trouble with the Mexican underworld when a member of his gang got arrested and started spilling trade secrets to the authorities. Fred moved on to Guadalajara where the final sequence of events that culminated in the Huntsville siege really began and where Fred’s only redeeming quality, his devotion to has wife, first became publicly apparent.

What happened in Guadalajara was that Fred and as­sorted gang and family members were arrested on Septem­ber 20, 1972, with 213 pounds of heroin (street value: $100 million) and enough guns for a whole army of bandidos. Fred’s wife Rosa was also captured in this haul, but Fred had no respect for any man who would let his wife languish in jail. He held a shard of glass against his throat for five hours until lawyers negotiated her release. Fred had good reason for wanting her out. His half-brother, Robert Zamorra Gomez, was found dead in his cell hanging by the neck from his own belt, even though that belt had been confiscated when Zamorra was booked. Fred accused prison officials of murder.

In December Fred escaped. Four confederates from San Antonio drove to Guadalajara with bribe money and Fred made it through the gate hidden in a laundry truck. He headed straight to San Antonio. He was convinced that he had been cheated by his gang while he was in jail, that his authority was threatened, and he knew only one way to deal with that situation. He started killing again. On March 10 he walked into an ice house where Gilbert Escobedo was drinking. Escobedo, formerly sort of a treasurer for the gang, had held back $80,000 from a heroin deal while Fred was in jail. Fred drew two pistols and used them both.

On April 8 he ordered Agapito Ruiz and Roy Castano to take him for a drive. They rode in the front seat while Fred and at least one other person, Joe Richard Garcez, a young dealer who had carried the money down to Guada­lajara to bribe Fred’s way out of jail, rode in the back. The police had been following Agapito very closely and had even gone so far as to place an electronic beeper on his car. Agapito discovered the device and took it to his attor­neys, who returned it to the police. But Fred thought he had turned informant. As they drove along an obscure road south of the city, Fred pulled out a gun and shot them both.

Afterward Fred ate a steak dinner, but the killings had made Joe Richard sick. He had to leave

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