The Untouchable

Complaints of racism, dirty politics, and other fishy business simply roll off Denton County's Teflon sheriff, Weldon Lucas

"I can tell you people that were out there that you wouldn't believe. I know people that was out there that would die right now if it came to light.''

Johnny Glass, a one-time sheriff's department deputy and former Lucas pal, is unimpressed by Lucas' denials. Lying is his "modus operandi," Glass says.

"He was there. I was there. He's a lying sack of shit," Glass says with a laugh.

One former employee complains that as Denton County's sheriff, Weldon Lucas, top, and with jailer Tesa Walker, bottom, has presided over two major jail expansions, which should provide more opportunities for blacks to find jobs in the Anglo-dominated department.
Peter Calvin
One former employee complains that as Denton County's sheriff, Weldon Lucas, top, and with jailer Tesa Walker, bottom, has presided over two major jail expansions, which should provide more opportunities for blacks to find jobs in the Anglo-dominated department.

News of the shockathons came to light in 1997 when Glass filed a lawsuit which claimed he was fired after filing a report alleging that Lucas stole county equipment.

"[Shockathons] went on over there every year that I know about since 1983," Glass says.

Glass runs Gainesville Seafood, a converted gas station that offers fresh and frozen radio-wave-free seafood and Louisiana-style meals that Glass personally prepares.

In his lawsuit, Glass claimed he was an exemplary employee who was fired because he reported Lucas' taking home and keeping a metal detector that was supposed to go to the crime lab. Glass says the crime lab supervisor told him about the theft and asked Glass to write a report that said Lucas had taken the metal detector.

Lucas admitted using the equipment but denied any wrongdoing. Glass says he became a marked man afterward and subsequently was fired for missing a meeting and failing to return several pages from the sheriff's department.

In the court case, Glass sought lost wages from 1996 to 1998, and compensation for "pain and suffering." Jurors awarded him $35,000.

In an office next to the seafood market's kitchen, where tropical fish swim on a computer screen, Glass reclines in his swiveling office chair. Sporting a dip of snuff inside his lower lip, he clasps his hands behind his head and grins, satisfied.

"I'm vindicated. I said I don't care if I get one dollar out of this; I want the jury to look at that man and tell him he's wrong, and that's exactly what they did. It hurt him worse than having to give me a bunch of money, because he's so egotistical that he's got everybody snow-jobbed or thinks he's got everybody snow-jobbed that he can't stand the thought of getting beat by a lowly deputy that took him to court and basically kicked his ass.''

Lucas, obviously, is no Johnny Glass fan. During the trial in Sherman, Lucas looked both tired and uncomfortable at times as he sat with the county's attorneys through hours of testimony.

"The truth really, finally came out and the man gets $35,000," says Lucas, who claims Glass has no credibility and would "sell his own mama."

"If Johnny's mouth is moving, he's lying," Lucas says.

Glass counters that Lucas "wants to be able to run people off if they catch him doing something wrong and they mention it. Then he wants to be able to fire them and say, 'Oh, that's a disgruntled ex-employee,' but as far as they're concerned, every ex-employee is a disgruntled ex-employee. Anybody that doesn't work there is disgruntled. That's the way they look at it.

"Most of those people that had an opportunity to get a job someplace else don't work there anymore. They are allowed to stay as long as they don't rock the boat...Anybody that stands up to him is gone."

One of those former employees who challanged Lucas is Howard Clark, a former patrol deputy who quit and works for the Lewisville Police Department. Clark was the last black man to work in the entire 150-employee law-enforcement side of the department, something he calls the front side of the wall (The "black faces" are kept in jailer positions and away from the public eye, he says.)

"I was told that before [Lucas] took office that he was going to do away with the quote unquote nigger coalition back in the jail, and there would be no black faces on what we call the front side of the wall, which is the admin [administration] and operations, the people that were out in front of the public," Clark says.

With the exception of two black women clerks, no African-Americans work on the front side of the wall. Not one black man or any woman works the roads of Denton County as a deputy or investigator, and none has since Clark left the department in 1998. (Denton County's population is roughly 6 percent black.)

Clark says Lucas told racist jokes in an incredibly racist department that discouraged real police work from all but insiders "who knew the right people not to ticket."

"It's just like 1950s Alabama, alive and well in Denton County. He's untouchable, so he thinks. Nobody challenges him."

Clark calls the department a "cesspool" inhabited by insiders seeking personal gain.

"These guys are still living these cowboy fantasies, coming in with their saddlebag thrown over their shoulder, wearing a low-slung gun rig on their hip and their string ties," he says. "I've been in law enforcement for 15 years now, and I know who good officers are and what a good officer is, and I know a good ol' boy, but you hear him [Lucas] talking about the good old days when you can whup up on somebody and all that, and I'm thinking, good old days for who? You whup up on me just 'cause I'm black, what I look like. That's kind of what they thought.''

When Lucas first took office, he quickly demoted Clark from sergeant to patrol deputy, among other demotions. Clark was told he was to change jobs because he was better suited as a patrol deputy.

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