Homeless Man Shot Out of Anger Not Fear

By Clora Hogan

Reprinted from Endless Choices Dallas Texas.

             In the wee hours of the morning on November 15, 1999, William “New York” Long pushed his shopping cart down Colson Street in East Dallas as he rummaged through trash.  It is not uncommon in Dallas to have people, not just homeless, rummage through the trash left out on the curb. 

             Long was known to sell scrap metal and copper tubing he found while sifting through other people’s trash.  His good fortune in finding two abandoned rusted out refrigerators soon became deadly for Long.

             Neighbors were awakened and annoyed by the stomping and banking noise made by Long as he tried to strip the copper wire and tubing from one of the junked refrigerators.  One neighbor, Robert Sanchez, 48, put an end to the noise and to Long.  After shouting racial slurs at Long, he went to his second floor window and shot Long with a 12-guage shot gun.

             A Dallas officer working in the area told jurors that he saw two homeless men looking at trash left out for pickup near Colson and Reiger St.  “ They were not breaking the law, so I went on,” the officer said, “Homeless people are know to recycle metal.”

             Matthew Armstrong, a neighbor across the street from Sanchez’s home, testified in court that he was still awake when the noise started.  He heard racial slurs yelled at the man on the street.  Armstrong told jurors that Long was not argumentative or angry during the verbal confrontation with Sanchez.  This was contrary to the volunteer statement given by Sanchez at the police station after the shooting.  In the statement, Sanchez said the victim pointed something toward the house, yelled and cursed at him.  Police said that Long had no gun.

             After hearing the first shot Armstrong called 911.  While dialing, he heard the second shot and the screams of pain coming from the man lying in the street.

             During the trial, it was stated that Sanchez had experienced many confrontations in the past with homeless people in the area.  Police stated that there were no 911 calls from the Sanchez home to report any such incidents.  He had used his shotgun before the scare off his undesirable homeless neighbors.

             Armstrong was not an advocate for homeless people.  When the defense attorney asked if he liked homeless people Armstrong said that “he’d just as soon not have them (the Homeless) in his neighborhood.  Armstrong told police what he saw, and the details about the night William “New York” Long was murdered.

             Long had met Armstrong in the past when he approached and asked Armstrong for work.  Armstrong did not have work to offer, and instead offered a few dollars.  Long refused the handout saying, “No thanks just let me know if you ever have work I can do.”

             A former neighbor of Robert Sanchez also testified during the trial.  Hilda Van Wormer knew both Long and Sanchez.  She identified Long’s body for the police.  Van Wormer, like Sanchez repaired old homes.  They would both rummage through trash items to use for repairs.  However, they did not rummage in the wee hours of the morning, as Long had done that night.

             Van Wormer claimed New York Long as a friend.  She said, “U saw him almost every day, he became my friend.”  She knew he drank too much, but he did not show up for work drunk.

             Sanchez’s attorneys told jurors of Long’s previous arrest record.  Long was convicted only one time and spent one year in jail.  The defense attorney continually attacked Long’s credibility by describing him as a homeless man with a criminal history.  Sanchez’s attorney also attacked Victory Long, William Long’s daughter and her tears in court as phony.

             Victoria Long attended the trial, taking a leave from the Air National Guard from her home in Virginia.  She was angry.  The defense attorney said Victoria Long’s tears were because he father had left her when she was 17 and not over his death. Victoria Long said, “He (the defense attorney) didn’t know me or my father.  How could he say that?”

             Sanchez was found guilty of criminal negligent homicide, which means no more than six months in jail.  Sanchez did not testify.  Prosecutor, Fred Burns, in his closing statement, said, “The law protects everybody.  Justice is blind.  Everybody should be protected, even William McKinley Long.”  He told the jury, “Your voice sends a message do you want to send?  Not fear, but anger and frustration caused the death of William “New York” Long.”

             The jury returned a guilty verdict for criminal negligent homicide setting aside the charge of murder.           

  Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #43, July-August 2000