Tulia Residents Try to Bury the Hatchet - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

1/7/05

Tulia Residents Try to Bury the Hatchet

Most say life has gotten back to normal, while others still do not want to talk about the Tulia bust of 1999 publicly.

Michelle White spent three years in prison. She says she has no ill feelings toward the community she lives, and is trying to move on with her life peacefully. "We're trying to rebuild our community back and do things right. Do what normal people do," said White.

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The national spotlight will again shine on West Texas next week as the discredited undercover agent in the 1999 Tulia drug busts goes on trial.

Mayor Boyd Vaughn planned to meet with us to talk about how the city has developed a negative image. But, he changed his mind. He says he would rather put this behind him so it will all go away.

"I think the predominant wish in the community would be that this thing go away. That we could forget about it and move on like it was before 1999," said Charles Kiker, a retired Baptist preacher. Kiker was one of many to generate public knowledge of possible wrong doings by former undercover drug agent Tom Coleman. "This kind of thing happens all over the country," Kiker said.

It's been nearly six years since the Tulia bust happened. But still some people believe this small community is perceived in a negative way. So how can this city pick itself back up? How can it regain a good reputation?

"Just going about your business and doing the things that you should. It's probably not going to make national news or get people to post a banner that says, 'Tulia is a great community," says City Attorney Steve Rohde. Rohde came to Tulia from Austin more than 20 years ago because he wanted to live in a nice, small community. He still thinks very highly of Tulia despite all the scrutiny.

"Just people. Good people with their own views, quite preventional which is not surprising," said Kiker. "This is not a bad community or town. It's just they allowed a crook to come in and do bad things in this town," said White.

Tulia is earmarked with a sign saying it is the town with the richest land and the finest town. But it is still a town that is hurting but slowly healing.

Hollywood is talking about turning the Tulia bust into a movie after the Coleman trial is over. The community is afraid that story will depict Tulia as a racist town, which citizens say is not the case.

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