|Photo by Dave Maass|
Vincent “Flaco” Gutierrez is all smiles and charm despite his imminent execution.
In 1998, Gutierrez and Randy Arroyo were sentenced to death for the murder of Air Force Captain Jose Cobo, who was based at Lackland AFB. Arroyo, 17, needed a part to fix his Mazda RX-7’s power windows, and Cobo had the same car. They abducted him. Cobo tried to escape and Gutierrez, an 18-year-old Kings gangmember, shot him twice in the back then dumped his body into rush-hour traffic.
When the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2005 that executing juvenile offenders was unconstitutional, Arroyo’s sentence was commuted to life. Gutierrez, now 28, is scheduled to be executed March 28, 2007. He spoke with the Current from Texas’s Death Row in Livingston.
Something I was generally curious about: In your letter, you referred to Johnathan Moore `“Injections & Ice Storms,” January 24-30` as your “road dog.” What does that mean?
`Laughs`. I met him back in 2001 after I came back from a bench warrant, right?
Over in Huntsville?
Nah, back in San Antonio. We were neighboring, but I didn’t talk to him for the first couple of days. I knew who he was because when he moved to trial I was back for some burglary cases, before I got this case. I seen them security teams surround him, you know? I’m like, “Damn, why they throwin’ on this fool for?” It was because he had tried to escape. He had to shave in front of them and everything. So when he found out that I was from San Antonio, he was like, “Maa-n” and I told him I knew who he was, and he was like, “What? You really talking to me?” I said, “I didn’t know you like talking to people.” He was a cool motherfucker.
He did a pretty daring escape attempt when they were trying to capture him the first time. The story was that the car rolled over ...
Yeah, yeah. In the ditch. Yo, he got screwed on his case, homes.
Well, you didn’t have a picnic yourself with yours.
Oh no. But, I mean, I ain’t no angel, right? But it’s like, on the prosecution side, they’re supposed to be somewhat good and shit. But they got their own laws to follow. They don’t follow ’em, so why the hell should I follow them, you know? And the way they convicted me, man? They didn’t have shit on me, except that key witness and he lied.
I’m confused. What are you saying? Were you there or were you not there?
Hell yeah, I was there, homes.
I’m like this: If can get away with this shit, I’m gonna try to get away with it. If I can get away with it, by your god-damned laws? The judge is supposed to be there for a purpose and if he isn’t going to use his power, you’re going to go outside of the law, so to speak, the way that them prosecutors did, like use a witness that they knew he was lying? To me it’s a lost cause. I don’t know man. It’s confusion to me, homes.
The newspaper back then said you and Arroyo were looking for a part for his car ...
No see, check this out, right ...
And yet, in your letter to me, you said you’ve never even been friends with Arroyo. How did you even know this guy to help him with a car part?
Nah, you see I was ... I just got out, I was only out for two weeks. Arroyo was messing around with my other partner. I knew Arroyo, but I never talked to him. They already had planned to do this ahead of time, they went and found a car, but when they got the first car, they put a wrong screw in the dent puller so when they tried to pop it out the ignition, the screw got stuck in there. They had to leave the car. I wasn’t there at the time. So they waited a couple days, and found another car. This time, they asked me to go with them. So I was like, shit, what am I to do it right? I mean, to me it was just a routine job.
This was Arroyo and Soaste. They were planning it.
I was just like a last-minute person.
They called this carjacking. Is that what you consider a routine thing?
Nah, I was trying to do robbery, homes. But at the same time, I just got out so I was like, when `Cobo` tried to bail, man? I wasn’t trying to come back for no robbery, homes. So I went ahead and shot him twice.
And you questioned me, am I remorseful? I got a different mentality on death. I can say no, because I didn’t know him, right? In order for me to be remorseful, I have to feel for somebody. And I didn’t know him, so I don’t feel for him.
I guess that’s the difference between remorseful and wishing you hadn’t done it?
What do you mean?
I mean, if you wish you had done it, I think most people-
No, I ain’t going to say that, ese. I don’t think most people wish they hadn’t done it. They probably wish they didn’t get caught.
Well, fair enough. It’s good to see you’re happy about it.
You gotta look at the situation for what it is and take the best out of any situation, no matter how bad it is. In this type of situation, you could be sad, could be mad, moody, whatever. I ain’t trying to go that route. I know I fucked up, but shhhit, I’m just trying to have the best time while I’m here.
You were 18. Arroyo was 17. Have you changed at all in that period? Do you think you’ve grown up a bit since then?
Oh yeah. To me, I probably have gotten worse. Too much anger, hatred toward the system from this shit. The way they convicted me was full of shit. But at the same time, you can’t have one without the other, you know? It’s like I’m both really. I ain’t totally bad.
In the newspaper, you are described as a former alter boy.
`Laughs`. I’m probably the only altar boy here on death row, huh?
When were you an altar boy?
When I was younger. For about five or six years. Nah, not that long. I don’t know, but I was an altar boy.
Are you religious these days?
But your mom is though.
Maybe a little bit too much.
Are you ready to die?
Hell no! Ain’t nobody ready to die. But at the same time, it’s like, for me right now? I’ve been here for close to 10 years. You get used to it, you know? The only hard part is to see, for instance, my mom. That’s the only thing that messes with my mind. She’s a headache, man. She’s trying to grab onto something that ain’t there, and like man, I’ve been dealing with this for 10 years and I can deal with this, I just can’t deal with her running around like a chicken with her head cut off.
Does it feel real yet, that you’re going to die?
We’ve all got to die sometime, homes. I mean, we’ve all got to die sometime homes, so in between now and dying I guess this is how you live between now and dead. I look at it like, me, if I wouldn’t have gotten locked up, I would have probably really been dead by now. So, I’ve made the best of it while I was here. I think I did.
So what’s your time like been here, 10 years? How have you dealt with it? I’m just throwing out questions here. We can talk about whatever.
My time, wasted. I don’t know. It don’t seem like it’s been that long, though. I kick back, and just get to reading, drawing, that’s it.
A lot of the inmates get these European pen pals ...
Oh, yeah, but see man I can’t. I mean I have, I’ve gotten a couple of them. I’ve got one right now, but even then, it’s hard to relate. When I can’t relate to somebody, man, I ain’t trying to talk to you. I mean, not in a mean way. I’m just saying, I ain’t going to waste your time, I ain’t going to waste my time, you know?
Were you in a gang?
Kings are Folks down.
`Laughs`. What??? Yeah! See, I got into that for the wrong reasons, too. In my mom’s neighborhood there was a gang that was Folks up. My brother grew up with one of them. And I’m the type to go against the grain, so it was like are you kicking with them or going against them. So I was like, man, shit, I’ll go against them. And it just went on from there. Even then it was dumb, man. Now I look at them, what the hell are you gang-banging for man? It’s a waste. I’m like man, I think that if you were to put that down gang shit and really get to know your enemy, shit, they could probably do some damage damage, instead of just like fighting with each other. I’m not talking about damage like, like do good for the community. I mean damage. Most gangbangers, they don’t even know what the hell they’re getting into shit for anyways. They try to say it’s for money, and shit. They’ve lost the meaning behind that shit. Me, I’d like to kick it with some of the ones I used to go against, see how their mentality is, you know?
What would you do if you got out?
If just suddenly one of those crazy motherfuckers said he did it, and they let you out?
If I were to get out right now, not on paperwork, no nothing? I’d probably leave Texas.
Where would you go?
To another country. I don’t know, homes. I was supposed to have still been on paperwork for the burglaries, I wouldn’t just be getting cleaned out. If they let me out by accident, shit, I’d create havoc in Texas. Man, I’d create some havoc. I’ve got too much anger for Texas.
That they want to execute you it seems like you’re taking it as sort of a compliment.
Nah, I ain’t taking it as a compliment. Man, I ain’t trying to get executed. I can fight them, I can get gas or whatever, but they’re still going to take me over there. They’re still going to strap me to the table. Still going to kill me. I ain’t going to kill myself. That’s not for me.
I guess some people just want to fight the power and take their own life.
To me that’s a delusion, homes. They compromised. I ain’t trying to compromise.
So, was this the first time you shot someone?
Shot someone or shot at someone?
Was it the first time you shot someone...
It’s not something you want to admit to at this point?
Nah, I don’t even want to admit to this one, man. It’s not over yet.
Has the victim’s family ever tried to get in touch with you?
Ah, no. There was a victim-impact statement sent saying that the dude’s daughter didn’t want the same thing for us.
It was interesting because before they were going to sentence you and they found out that the prosecutor was pursuing the death penalty, the family was a little bit for it. Afterwards the quote they’ve got, “I feel pity for them, I cry for their families. We didn’t wish any bad for anybody, it was in God’s hands, nobody wins.” Then somebody else says, “This is just another burden in our hearts.”
Hold ’em up, hold on, who said that?
Ruben Cobo said the second one.
That’s not the statement I got from him.
And Paul Cobo as well.
I got one from Ruben saying that he hopes we get death.
Before you got the sentence?
I’m still going to talk crazy on him because he wished death upon me, homes. What’s up with that shit? Him wishing death upon me?
Is there anything else you want to say or want to add for posterity?
What’s that mean?
Anything else you want to say on your behalf.
Hah, you’ll hear it in my last statement, what I’m saying when I’m on that gurney. I’m going to talk some crazy stuff, homes. That key witness, I’m going to put him in my last statement. I’m-a let him know that he lied, I’m-a let him know I’m going to come back and get him. I’m-a talk some crazy shit on my last statement. It might be crazy to the next person, but it’s the honest truth they ain’t never heard.