Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Oct. 28, 2002

Domestic violence vigil has deeper impact this year

By Ryan Gueningsman

Lester Prairie Police Chief Bob Carlson attended his first domestic violence vigil ­ with a stronger local connection than one would wish for.

Carlson was invited to be a speaker at the McLeod County Alliance for Victims of Domestic Violence (MAVDV) candlelight vigil in Hutchinson Oct. 10. October is domestic violence awareness month.

He spoke to the crowd of approximately 75 people about the fatal stabbing of Laura Vasquez last December. She was six months pregnant at the time, and was stabbed by her boyfriend Sergio Sanchaz-Diaz.

Carlson reflected upon how being the first to arrive on the scene affected him as an officer ­ and an individual.

"As a law enforcement officer, I have been trained to handle and investigate all crimes, but, as a human being and a father, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see, said Carlson in his speech.

"I was dispatched to a serious medical involving a woman who was having a miscarriage. I thought that was serious enough, until I arrived at the scene.

"I heard yelling and screaming from all different directions, and a young girl, who was crying and trembling, was telling me to go into the trailer. My stomach got that 'butterfly feeling,' as if I knew this wasn't going to be a normal medical situation.

"Lucky for me, I did have another Lester Prairie police officer riding with me that night to assist. We entered the trailer home and we observed the worst-case scenario of what domestic violence is."

Before this incident, Carlson handled other domestic calls like clockwork, gathering information, getting statements, and if he believed a crime had taken place ­ taking the suspect into custody.

The incident Dec. 29, 2001 was not normal clockwork.

"Unfortunately, this was not the first reported incident of domestic disturbance between Laura and Sanchaz-Diaz, a.k.a. Abraham Flores.

"The first incident my officers responded to was on May 5, 2000 when Sergio had gotten into an argument and severely cut his hand by punching it through a window because he was upset," Carlson said. "There wasn't enough evidence to charge him with domestic assault, but he was charged with disorderly conduct."

In addition to that incident, Lester Prairie responded to 17 other domestic disturbance or assault complaints, and in 2001 there were 32. Of those 32, there were 23 verbal disputes and nine domestic assault arrests.

"I believe domestic assault is a growing problem in my community and in Minnesota," Carlson said.

Since domestic abuse is a growing concern in Lester Prairie, and across the state, Carlson was encouraged by the invitation to speak.

"I felt that it was important to go because this involved a citizen of Lester Prairie," he said. "I think people found it (the speech) very touching. It gave a side of a domestic situation that people always don't think of ­ the law enforcement."

Each year the MAVDV has some kind of an event in October recognizing the victims of domestic violence.

"This year, the murder really hit home," MAVDV Intervention Coordinator Holly Kleve said. "It was a good time to talk to people ­ everyone really came together for this. It turned out really well."

To close his speech that night, Carlson reflected on a Bible verse that a lot of police officers keep in mind.

"It comes from Matthew 5:9," Carlson said, "and it says 'Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God."

"A peacemaker confronts violence and brings it under God's judgement . . . peacemaking begins with your mate, your immediate family, your in-laws and in your neighborhood. It begins at work or at school."

For more information on the domestic violence, contact the MAVDV at 800-934-0851.

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