Crime hits close to home

A Story by Renee Baker, Edge Publications, August 11, 2009

Joey Avila

Joey “Angel” Avila is not new to crime. When he was but a young man living in the streets of Old City Park in Dallas, he often awoke in the morning to break into people’s houses. Thirty years later, the 50-year-old Avila, a volunteer for the Dallas Police Department, has become a victim himself.

Avila stepped out of his Reagan Street duplex to walk his dogs on May 2. He spotted two men circling back his way when he reached the boulevard adjacent to the Resource Center of Dallas. Avila said he thought he was safe, until they began to run after him.

“They jumped me in my own driveway,” Avila said. “The dogs were barking, but unfortunately nobody came out to help.”

Avila said one man grabbed him and pushed him to the ground.

“I landed on my knee at first and he pushed me all the way down, holding me down with his foot on my shoulder,” he said.

The second man then searched Avila until he found a wallet, but he did not find the cell phone pinned underneath him.

“Once they got my wallet, they took off and left,” Avila said.

Avila dialed 911 and the police responded in a matter of minutes. The mugging took place at 12:30 a.m. Avila’s duplex is across the street from RCD, where Avila has been a volunteer.

Avila, who is gay, said he believes the motivation for the crime may be drug related and indirectly “against gays.” He said he feels many criminals think gay men won’t fight back and “see homosexuals as easy prey… [and as] quick cash to get drugs.”

“Well, this time they were wrong,” Avila said.

Avila declined to be taken to the emergency room as police suggested, not recognizing at the time he had a slight concussion. An ambulance took him to St. Paul Hospital later the same morning after he became dizzy. The hospital released him after CAT scans and x-rays revealed no life-threatening injuries.

The men who attack Avila cut his upper lip and cheek and a contusion to his left shoulder. Avila’s front tooth was broken in half due to the force the men used to throw him to the ground.

Avila later met with Bret Camp, associate director at the Resource Center of Dallas, who directed him to the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic on Cedar Springs. Jean Sanders, a dentist for the clinic, was able to perform the emergency repair.

Avila said he is not bitter at all with his attackers.

“It is not in my character to strike back,” he said. “I pray for them.”

Avila has had a challenging journey in life himself. His father threw him out of the house at 12.

“Most people were getting up to go into school, but I was getting up to break into people’s houses,” he said.

Avila’s life turned around one day the way he lived his life was not very safe. Avila had a previous life of survival sex and drug addiction and he contracted HIV. He was despondent for years thinking, “If I do enough of these [drugs], then I can just rest and not live this life.”

Avila was able to find a counselor at the Greater Dallas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse several years ago that helped him turn his life around.

“It was the first time someone really cared about me… and to help me see the things I did were not right,” he said.

Avila spoke very highly of the Dallas Police Department and what he described as their increased concern for Oak Lawn residents. He said even with increased patrols that more needs to be done because the neighborhood “has gotten too unsafe.” He said criminals know when police change their shifts, and that’s when they strike.

Avila added he has been assaulted again and is considering moving out of the Oak Lawn area.

For more on this story,  click the EDGE link.

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