By Joe Olvera ©, 2012
When Carlos Leon, retired Chief of Police, suffered a horrendous accident on his Harley-Davidson in 2009, he decided he’d had enough. “God gave me a second chance and I took it seriously,” Leon said. “I believe that I died right there at the scene. I remember seeing my father, who was already dead, coming for me to take me wherever he was. But, it didn’t happen. I was brought back to life for some reason – I feel that God had another purpose for me. Once I mended from my numerous injuries, I became politically involved so that I could continue doing my best to help the city that I love.”
Leon, who still has one more race to run – on the Nov. 6 general election against Republican Bill Lenderman – was elected as the candidate for the Democratic Party in Pct. 1 of El Paso’s County Commissioner’s Court. He said that if he wins that campaign, he would be proud to be joining a strong force where he hopes to make a difference. He retired as Chief of Police in 2003, having served in law enforcement for 29 years, 4½ as Chief. He was highly successful in his tenure, having implemented a Stash House Unit, a program hailed across the nation that helped to stop drugs where they were being stored before shipment. He also helped to create an initiative aimed at eliminating gang activity by filing civil action against gang members, especially the notorious Aztecas.
On August 26, 2009, Leon was riding his bike on a New Mexico back-road, Hwy. 28 near Mesilla, when a pickup truck pulled out in front of him. His injuries were so severe that he had to be airlifted to the University Medical Center. In that accident, his first on a motorcycle, he suffered broken bones on both his shoulders, a vertebrae, three ribs and both his arms. For four months, he was helpless in a wheelchair, with his family having to provide for all his needs, including taking him to the bathroom. He was in surgery for seven hours, spent two weeks in intensive care and ten days in a rehab clinic.
“I’ve sworn off bikes,” Leon said. “I still love them, but, not for me. My mom suffered a stroke following the crash, something from which she never recovered.” Leon said he will be in learning mode if he joins the Court in January. “I still love bikes, but, I don’t want to have to go through another accident like the one I had and put my family through all that suffering. I feel that I’m a happy camper. I still have a lot to offer my community. If and when I become a County Commissioner, I will go into it with an open mind because I will be in learning mode. Commissioner’s Court is getting good, and, yes, I’m in favor of the city working closely with the county. We can accomplish more by working together.”
Leon, 60, said he has high energy, despite the fact that he has titanium steel all over his body. “My key to succeeding on Commissioner’s Court is that I strongly believe in being inclusive. If I have been successful to some extent in my life it’s because I know when to keep my mouth shut and listen. El Paso’s been good to me. I was born and raised in the Lower Valley, graduated from Ysleta High School. I’m fortunate in having my wife, Bonnie, we’ve been married 35 years. I have three kids, two of them live here in El Paso, and one lives in Houston. I’ve been blessed in my life. My strongest advice to bikers is to always wear a helmet, because that’s what saved my life.”
Leon said when he set out for his ride to Mesilla, he realized that he was wearing the wrong helmet, it was larger than the other. “I felt lazy to go back and get the smaller helmet, but, you know, now I’m glad that I didn’t go back for it. The large helmet saved my life. Some bikers, they don’t like to wear helmets, they have the attitude that ‘if it’s my turn to go, I’ll just go.’ But, it doesn’t always happen that way. If you survive a crash, you might become a vegetable. Maybe that won’t happen, but, to me, the risk is just not worth it.” Motorcycle accidents seem to be very common in El Paso. Angelica Becerra, a deputy with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Dept., said in 2011 there were 26 accidents involving motorcycles, with two deaths. Thus far in 2012, there have been 18 accidents with zero fatalities.
“Motorists should also be more aware. For some reason or other, when a motorist sees a bike, somehow, it doesn’t register,” Leon said. “I considered myself a safe driver, and, yet, look what happened to me. Motorists, when they shift lanes, they should look for bikes as well as looking for cars. For bikers and others, always look both ways before entering a street. One never knows what will be encountered coming in the other direction. People do make mistakes. If and when I get to Commissioner’s Court, I will dedicate myself to the city and county that I love, dedicate myself to the citizens – as I did when I was Chief. I’m excited because I’m the type of person that never gives up.”