A Ranger's Response
BY F.A. KRIFT
May 11, 2007 - 4:58PM
Texas Ranger Sgt. Brian Burzynski (Cindeka Nealy|Odessa American) The call came to Texas Ranger Sgt. Brian Burzynski at 12:48 p.m. on Feb. 23, 2005. On the telephone, a West Texas State School volunteer claimed that sexual misconduct was happening at the Pyote facility.
Burzynski remembers it as if it was yesterday.
Exactly 12:48 p.m., he said clearly without rattling through his now infamous “Rangers’ report.”
The allegations sounded darn serious — teenage boys imprisoned under the control of the state were being sexually abused by facility supervisors.
An hour’s drive from his Fort Stockton office, he was at the facility by 2:30 p.m. or so, he said.
Burzynski’s urgency from minute one and his persevering sense of duty throughout the nearly two-year lag it took for any prosecution of the cases is why Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Plano, will honor Burzynski with a resolution on the House of Representative’s floor Monday.
“If it wasn’t for him, all the things that have happened at the TYC would still have been hidden and still going on,” Madden said.
Burzynski’s passionate, emotional testimony March 8 to a joint legislative committee responsible for revamping the broken TYC hardened state leaders’ resolve to wipe clean the fumbling state youth prison system.
“Not just his testimony, but his actual report he did and the persistency he showed,” Madden said. “He was absolutely topnotch. He was certainly a critical factor.” Burzynski, 36, said he knew the enormity of the overall case — the purported blinded mismanagement by TYC’s central office, a culture of fear and intimidation inside the youth system — was much bigger than he could handle.
But he simply handled the criminal investigation at an isolated, usually never-thought-about facility just off Interstate 20.
And handling his part is what separates him from the rest involved.
While legislators, the governor, lieutenant governor and TYC executives pointed fingers at anyone seemingly responsible for the crumbling TYC mess before them, no one looked at Burzynski.
“I was just doing my job,” he said.
Doing his job led Burzynski from his start with the Hereford police to the Texas Department of Public Safety and, four years later, into the Rangers. He and his supervisors swear any Ranger would have responded the same way that he did.
“I think Brian showed a passion for his job,” West Texas Ranger Company Capt. Barry Caver said.
But the difference is no one else involved in the case for two years had the same responsibility.
“Luckily, Brian kept good documentation to back up what he’s saying,” Caver said.
Just doing his job was a 230-page investigative report that laid out every gritty, horrific detail of the purported sexual abuse inside the fenced-off prison.
For nearly two years after it was presented to Ward County District Attorney Randall Reynolds, the report collected dust.
“You cry about it and see what happens to these kids, and no one believes them,” Burzynski said. “Nobody cares about these kids, and you go home with that night after night. … Listen, I ain’t a winner in this thing.
“I came out of this knowing and realizing that there are a lot more kids out there who may not have been sexually molested but who are overlooked and insignificant,” he said.
Burzynski looked the boys in the eyes during his investigation. They were near the age of his son, Josiah. He promised them their rightful day in court, he said.
But the statute of limitations was running out.
“If the Rangers fail them, then my gosh, how can they have hope in life?” Burzynski said.
Then his report circulated through Austin’s legislative offices after Alison Brock, Rep. Sylvester Turner’s chief of staff — who will also be honored Monday — contacted Burzynski and asked for a copy upon hearing about the claimed abuses.
Before long, media reports in the Texas Observer and the Dallas Morning News followed and legislators stiffened up and hunkered down for an overhaul.
Both the House and the Senate passed major TYC reconstruction legislation in the wake of abuse claims at the West Texas State School and other youth prisons.
“To see at least the system has been reformed out of this, that in itself — no matter what happened in this case criminally — is of great satisfaction,” Burzynski said.
It was a concerned phone call — and Burzynski responded immediately when many others didn’t.
“I don’t see there is any big deal in it,” he said. “So many people dropped the ball over a period of time — that was kind of the standard, so when somebody did their job, it caught them by surprise. That’s just my opinion.”
He called himself a nobody.
Just doing his job.
“Isn’t that what you’d expect from a Ranger?” Rangers Lt. Bob Bullock asked. “You better believe it.”
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