Ladislado Ureste - Notice to Close File

Wednesday, April 22, 1953

File No.  144-76-5074 

                                                                                     CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION
                                                                                        Notice to Close File


                                                                                  Date       April 20, 2010


To:      Chief, Criminal Section
Re:      Unknown Subjects San Antonio, Texas - Subjects Ladislado Ureste (deceased) - Victim

            CIVIL RIGHTS

            It is recommended that the above case be closed for the following reasons:

I.         Synopsis

            On April 22, 1953, Ladislado Ureste, a 47-year-old Hispanic resident, was working as a night watchman for a plumbing company in San Antonio, Texas.  At about 10:30 p.m., the night XXXXXXX heard Ureste call “Let me in.”  Upon going to the door, XXXXXX saw that Ureste’s face and arms were bloody and he was covered with dirt.  Ureste reported that two white men had beaten him with long iron chains.  Ureste told XXXXX he did not know the men who beat him but Ureste thought they were union men.  After the beating, the men got into their car and left.  Ureste first asked XXXXX to call the plumbing company to tell them he was quitting because he was afraid to work.  Ureste then asked XXXXX to call the police.


                                                               Karla Dobinski


To:      Records Section
Office of Legal Administration

The above numbered file has been closed as of this date.


     4-20-10__________                                                              __________________________

            Date                                                                                  Acting Chief, Criminal Section


San Antonio XXXXXXXXXXXX was on routine patrol and arrived at the scene.  XXXXXXX interviewed Ureste who told the officer that he put up a struggle against the attack, using his flashlight as a club.  Ureste said the attack occurred while he was working on a pump in an isolated section of Concepcion Park.  Ureste was brought to the hospital by an ambulance, where doctors discovered he had a fractured skull and other injuries.  Ureste lost consciousness and died five days later following surgery for a brain hemorrhage.

            Witnesses interviewed by San Antonio Police Department investigators included the store owner where Ureste had bought some soft drinks on his way to work and the foreman of the plumbing company who said Ureste was a good worker.  Witnesses also reported that Ureste had cashed a paycheck for $200 that day; police did not find any cash at the scene. The crime scene diagram showed the location of the beating and the exact sites where several items were recovered. Investigators found Ureste’s bloody sock, shoe, watch, flashlight and unopened pocket knife.  They also found two items that they determined did not belong to Ureste: a cap and a pack of Philip Morris cigarettes.

            XXXXXXXXXXXXXX in the days surrounding the attack on Ureste, gave a statement to the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.[1] XXXXXX provided some information about a union agent named XXXXXXXXX said that on the day before Ureste was attacked, XXXXXXX, with an unidentified man in the background, came up to XXXXX and asked why XXXXX “didn’t let a good operator work the machine.”  XXXXXXX then turned and left. The next day, the same day of the attack on Ureste, XXXXXXX appeared again, with two other men in a car.  XXXXXXX asked XXXXX if XXXX had seen XXXXXXXX.  When XXXXXX told XXXXXXX had not seen XXXXXXX then left the scene. The following day, the XXXXXX told XXXXX of the attack on Ureste and questioned XXXXX about the kind of cap worn by XXXXXX.[2]  That evening XXXXX went to XXXXXXXXX home where XXXXX found XXXXXX and told XXXXX that XXXXX had heard about the attack on Ureste and that XXXXXXXXX would rather quit his job than cause trouble with the union.  XXXXXXX said XXXXX had read about the attack in the newspaper and that if XXXXX knew of any trouble, XXXXXX would tell XXXXXXX.  XXXXXXX then left the home.       

            The local investigation did not identify any subjects.

II. Federal Investigation

            In January, 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initiated a review of the circumstances of the victim’s death, pursuant to the Department of Justice’s “Cold Case Initiative.”  The FBI obtained a contemporaneous newspaper article that described the above events as well as records from the Homicide Unit of the San Antonio Police Department.  The FBI determined that the police officials quoted in the article had died; Captain Joe Hester, in 1990 and Officer M. A. Colaw, in 1982.  The FBI also sought records from the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety, but were informed that these agencies did not have any records relating to Ureste’s death.

            FBI special agents interviewed the following members and friends of Ureste’s XXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. They did not have firsthand information about the circumstances of the death, but reiterated their general beliefs that either unnamed union members might have assaulted Ureste in a labor dispute or that he was robbed for the cash from his paycheck that day.           

III.      Legal Analysis                                                                      

            This matter does not constitute a prosecutable violation of the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute, 18 U.S.C. §245.  Prior to 1994, federal criminal civil rights violations were not capital offenses, and were therefore subject to a five-year statute of limitations.  See 18 U.S.C. § 3282(a).  In 1994, some of these civil rights statutes, including 18 U.S.C. § 242, were amended to provide the death penalty for violations resulting in death, thereby eliminating the statute of limitations.  See 18 U.S.C. § 3281 (“An indictment for any offense punishable by death may be found at any time without limitation.”).  However, the Ex Post Facto Clause prohibits the retroactive application of the 1994 increase in penalties and the resultant change in the statute of limitations to the detriment of criminal defendants.  Stogner v. California, 539 U.S. 607, 611 (2003).  While the Civil Rights Division has used non-civil rights statutes to overcome the statute of limitations challenge in certain cases, such as those occurring on federal land and kidnaping resulting in death, the facts of the present case do not lend themselves to prosecution under other statutes.                                               

            Second, in order to establish a violation under that statute, the government would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that victim was assaulted because of his race or nationality and because he was exercising a federally-protected right such as his right to employment.  There is no evidence to indicate that the assault was motivated by the victim’s race or nationality.  Though Ureste identified his assailants as white, he did not report that they used any language that would indicate he was targeted because he was Hispanic.  There was no indicia at the scene of the crime that would indicate race or nationality was a factor in the assault.  The local investigation did not identify any subjects and there do not appear to be any viable leads that would indicate that the motive element of §245 could be met.

IV.       Conclusion                                                    

            Based on the foregoing, this matter does not constitute a prosecutable violation of federal criminal civil rights statutes and, therefore, should be closed.


[1]  Internet records currently reflect the name of a XXXXXX in XXXXX. According to the police records, XXXXX was XXXX years old in 1953, which would mean he is now about XXXX years old. 

[2]  A cap found at the scene does not appear to match the description given by XXXXXX.

Updated September 29, 2016