2018 Gecko Awards
The goofy, the bad & the weird
El Paso Scene’s 12th annual Gecko Awards honor 2018’s strangest, dumbest and most outrageous news items
By Lisa Kay Tate
Gecko of the Year: Social Media
This was the year when social media caught the worst of everyone, including a business owner getting blamed for a post from a page that wasn’t his, angry moms, sports loving grandmas and criminals going viral.
Two standout incidents included local police officers on camera responding to a report of criminal trespassing by a local teen that showed a police officer pulling a gun on underage individuals who were shouting obscenities at the officer. The teen taking the video was brought in for interfering with a police officer’s duty.
The other is the leaking of a dash-cam video by a former Socorro Police chief during a traffic stop involving the city manager’s 21-year-old son; the video implied issues of preferential treatment.
Also on Facebook this year were several urban legend-style reports of three cars “trapping a random lady” in her car on George Dieter and Rojas, although there were no confirmed reports of this happening, according to the local police.
The Sun City even got to be part of the long-going Russian interference hoopla, as a report from National Public Radio said operatives in Russia posed as local news sources on Twitter, from five Texas cities, including El Paso.
Social media also was behind many of the Gecko nominees that didn’t make the final cut, since they were Facebook, Instagram or other posts that had no relationship to reality — such as the recurring ‘rural legend’ of border-patrolling vigilantes credited with apprehending CIA agents trafficking in cocaine. Never happened, says snopes.com.
Even the equipment providing social media was an issue this year. One Clint ISD technology teacher who was charged with stealing 150 iPads from the district and reselling them.
Now, pull up a chair, get into the most comfortable position for repeated face palms, and enjoy the rest of this year’s Gecko Awards, which appeared in local news sources this year.
El Paso Scene once again says goodbye to another year by looking at the weirdest and worst of the area’s events and news.
Thanks to one win against the Rice Owls, the UTEP Miners football team missed the Gecko top spot for second year in a row, but scored points for being part of what ESPN senior writer Ryan McGee called a “cosmic confrontation” of the two worst teams in the country. “If our universe truly did begin with the Big Bang,” McGee reported on the UTEP-Rice game, “then perhaps it will end this Saturday with the Prolific Poof.”
The Miners won the game, but not before giving up 23 straight points to Rice in the fourth quarter after leading 34-3. The Miners went on to lose the rest of their season’s games, ending 1-11, while Rice finished 2-10. This allowed UTEP to keep its national FBS Division I last-place ranking for 2018, even with one more victory than their winless 2018 season.
Local elections continued to have their share of Gecko worthy-news.
El Paso Judge Luis Aguilar received more than 11,000 votes for the 243rd District Court Judge, even though he asked people not to vote for him, and to take his name off the ballot.
Democratic Congressional candidate Dori Fenenbock removed a campaign ad from her social media channel featuring an endorsement from retired El Paso boxer David Rodriguez after criticism that Rodriguez had also expressed his support for Republican Donald Trump.
Three other candidates who lost their bids for Congress in the primary race to replace Beto O’Rourke filed a lawsuit against the winner, Veronica Escobar, and others. The claim there was voter fraud caused by tampering with initial programming of hard drives and delivering them to high-producing locations. The suit was later dismissed.
There was the constant reminder to not always immediately “believe what you read” on social media. When a post considered to be racist was shared by what appeared to be a House of Pizza Facebook page, the local eatery owner faced accusations of racism and calls to boycott the restaurant, before it was discovered the Facebook page was fake. The establishment’s owner said he didn’t even have a Facebook page to begin with.
A&E’s “Live PD” spent some time with El Paso officers this year, and accompanied them on some unusual cases, including one of the most unappealing moments, arresting a man in a convenience store bathroom painting the walls with his own excrement.
Another runner-up Gecko spot goes to the Billy Abraham, as he consistently never fails to make the news in interesting and questionable ways.
Abraham was in the news again and again this year for financial woes, including seeking bankruptcy protection in February after the son of late singer Juan Gabriel filed a $1 million claim against him. Abraham’s collection of historic buildings and other property were at the center of constant litigation, with many of them finally being sold to some of El Paso’s wealthiest real estate businesspeople. Even then controversy ensued when one of the buyers, a cousin of Abraham, was accused of acting of behalf of the disgraced slumlord in his bid for the Kress Building.
8ighty6ixing that 6ix9ine show
The County Coliseum cancelled a concert featuring rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine show, since the rapper had been in jail for weeks on charges including racketeering and firearms. There were already doubts the controversial rapper would perform, when after the show was first announced, he released a profanity-heavy Instagram post saying he fired his entire team and was cancelling his U.S. Tour of which the El Paso show was a part.
It came from Sunspot
National Solar Observatory’s Sunspot in Cloudcroft made international news while people speculated the reasons for a sudden closure of the observatory. Theories ranged from solar flares to “a terrorist cell in the woods that use the antennas to communicate with another terrorist cell” to Chinese spies to, of course, an alien invasion. Turns out the reason for the mysterious 10-day closure was so FBI officials could track down and arrest a janitor on child pornography charges.
Ozzy Osbourne was so impressed with the town of Alamogordo, N.M. when he and his son came through during a filming of “Ozzy and Jack’s World Detour,” the heavy metal legend and reality television star joined the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce.
What’s the buzz?
Residents of one far East El Paso neighborhood found themselves in danger in the spring, when they were invaded by around 1 million aggressive Africanized bees found living in the walls of one house.
Was the truck braking bad?
El Paso customs officers recovered nearly $4 million worth of liquid methamphetamine hidden in containers inside the smuggler’s pickup truck gas tank.
‘Define Irony’ award 2018
Fire completely burned the inside of the new kitchen and dining areas at the popular Ruidoso’s barbecue, “Can’t Stop Smokin’.”
Why we can’t nave nice things
A Sun Metro supervisor vehicle was rear-ended on Stanton Street, causing it to collide with and dent the new El Paso Streetcar it was escorting. The cars had not yet been opened to the public.
Brothers of Poor Life Choices
A former El Paso Catholic school principal and assistant principal were arrested for taking $800,000 to fund their “lavish lifestyle” including air travel, shopping and cash withdrawals at various casinos. Both were members of Central El Paso’s “Brothers of the Poor of St. Francis.”
Making Las Cruces great again
While in Las Cruces filming a faith-based movie, “Walking with Herb,” comedian/actor George Lopez got into a physical altercation with an apparent President Trump fan who was yelling “MAGA” at him, resulting in Lopez grabbing him by the neck. The entire altercation took place in the local Hooters. A misdemeanor charge against Lopez was later dropped, a relief to organizers of the Las Cruces International Film Festival, who will give Lopez their Outstanding Achievement award next month.
A boy, a Beamer and a belt
A series of tweets and a video went viral that chronicled a 14-year-old El Paso boy’s attempt to drive his mother’s new BMW to a friend’s house without her knowledge. The attempt backfired when the mother found out about the plan and jumped into her other car, with the boy’s older sister capturing everything on her cell phone. Not only was the sister gleeful about her brother getting caught, she happily followed her mom’s order to grab one of her dad’s belts for an immediate spanking the mom gave once the boy got caught. Despite some controversy over corporal punishment, most viewers congratulated the mom on administering quick justice. The sister later reported the teen was also “grounded until 2019.”
Any 411 on the 411 Guy?
El Paso Crime Stoppers reported that Ceasar Torres, owner of the popular website El Paso 411. was on “El Paso’s Most Wanted” list for suspicion of forgery. Although both the website and Facebook page were disabled, the site’s Instagram was still up and making posts, leading people to wonder if it was Torres or someone else pretending to be him.
But his English was good
A District of Columbia clerk refused to accept a Las Cruces man’s driver’s license when applying for a D. C. marriage license, because she thought New Mexico was a “foreign country” and he needed to also show an international passport.
It’s as simple as ABC...DE
Southwest Airlines apologized to an El Paso mother on a flight from California after a gate agent made fun of her daughter’s name, spelled “Abcde.” FYI: It’s pronounced “Ab-si-dee.”
Hard to find an exit ramp
An alleged drunk driver was arrested taking a midnight drive along Loop 375, after driving the wrong way for seven miles.
Grand theft art
Among the belongings of a deceased elderly couple in the tiny New Mexico town of Cliff, about 30 miles from Silver City, was a painting stolen from the University of Arizona Museum. An antique dealer found the painting, which reportedly is now worth $160 million. The couple apparently helped a family member steal the painting 31 years ago.
Let’s rename it William Billion
A federal audit found the new William Beaumont Army Medical Center complex at Fort Bliss nearly three years behind schedule, with 789 construction change requests including 132 cancelled requests, upping the budget to more than $1 billion. Construction began in 2013 with an original cost estimated at $812.8 million, with a plan to begin use in 2017. It’s now estimated to be finished in 2019 and ready to be occupied in 2020.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spit
When police answered the call of a man at a Whataburger on Dyer banging on car windows and assaulting customers, a “Live PD” video crew riding with the officers found the suspect, wearing only shorts, behind the grill in the kitchen with a spatula in his hand. The suspect wrestled in the car, refused to give his name to the officers and told them he was “God” before spitting at them. He finally was tased.
Paws before you shoot
A Las Cruces man was hospitalized but expected to make a full recovery from serious injuries that happened during a hunting trip, when he was accidentally shot … by his 120-pound Rottweiler “Charlie.” The owner said the dog was in the back seat and slipped after putting his paw on the trigger of a shotgun lying on the seat. The gun fired and hit the driver in the back.
Hopefully, extra virgin olive oil
The Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces investigate a statue of the Virgin Mary in Hobbs that appeared to be crying. It was discovered her tears were made of olive oil.
Firefighters under fire
The practice of hazing among local firefighters was brought to light when one young firefighter went to a local newspaper to explain one hazing ritual that involved spray painting a fireman’s genitals, hoisting him up, and parading him around the station.
Not exactly Burck naked
Robert Burck paid a visit to Juarez at the beginning of the year to help secure the American citizenship of his wife, who is from Mexico. Burck, who is known in New York’s Times Square, as the Naked Cowboy, spent some time entertaining Juárez residents in his work attire — a pair of cowboy boots, hat, guitar…. and tighty whities.
Look right before you light
An El Paso man was arrested after allegedly trying to light a meth pipe while sitting in the front seat of his car. It was while he was parked at a red light next to two uniformed officers in a police car.
Complimentary ‘tortilla crisps’?
The northern England town of Newcastle upon Tyne opened a restaurant named “El Paso Bar & Grille” serving “Latin American” dishes such as guacamole made with peas, green “chilli,” passion fruit-flavored churros and tacos garnished with a flower.
Black Hawk letdown
While conducting a training mission, a box of ammunition accidentally fell from a Fort Bliss Black Hawk helicopter through the roof of a Parkland Elementary classroom, causing a power outage in one portion of a school and leaving a hole in the roof. No one was injured.
Dump truck diving
An unmanned dump truck caused a chain-reaction crash involving six vehicles on Loop 375, after its driver lost control of the truck and jumped from the still-moving vehicle.
That is bloody wrong
Lawyers claimed the blood test results of nearly two dozen drunk-driving cases in El Paso were falsified by a Texas Department of Public Safety employee. She allegedly copied and pasted the results in at least 22 cases instead of actually conducting a test.
Adding insulin to insult
A 2018 report from the personal finance site Wallethub.com no longer listed El Paso as the fattest among the 100 most populated cities in the nation, although the report now shows El Paso to be the “Most Diabetic” city in the country.
The bite marks were straight
An El Paso dentist was arrested for assault at his office on a Monday after he got into fight over the weekend and bit a man on the arm.
He obviously wasn’t a Slytherin
A burglary suspect was charged with animal cruelty when he broke into a home and stabbed to death the occupants’ pet snake.
The service was “the pits”
Mexican porn star, singer and television star Sabrina Sabrok alleged that a high-end Juarez hotel restaurant refused her and her husband access because of the tattoos covering their arms. The restaurant owner said they were restricted from the buffet because the sleeveless shirt her husband was wearing showed his underarm hair.
22nd time’s the charm
During a car chase resulting from a traffic violation, one Socorro police officer fired at the car he was chasing 21 times, including shooting from inside and outside the vehicle. There were no injuries.
Copyright 2019 by Cristo Rey Communications