Thursday, July 14, 2005

Rest In Peace Doug "Gypsy" Morgan

Taco Land shooting claims another life

Mary Moreno
Express-News Staff Writer

His mother had told him it was OK to let go. And Wednesday night, Doug "Gypsy" Morgan did just that.

After more than two weeks of trying to recover from a gunshot wound that pierced his intestines, Morgan, 53, became the second fatality of the June 25 shooting at Taco Land that also claimed the life of the iconic bar's owner, Ramiro "Ram" Ayala.

Police have said Ayala, Morgan and Denise "Sunshine" Koger were shot during a robbery at the Grayson Street bar. Ayala was shot first, then Morgan and finally Koger. Koger has told Morgan's family that he saved her life by shielding her from the gunfire.

An anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers led to the arrests of Joseph Gamboa, 22, and Jose Najera, 29. Each was charged with one count of capital murder and two counts of attempted capital murder and remained jailed.

It wasn't immediately known if Morgan's death would result in upgraded charges.

Morgan died at University Hospital at about 8:30 p.m. with his mother, stepfather, sister and a friend keeping him company.

Morgan had seemed to be recovering from his injuries after operations to repair his intestines, said his mother, Barbara Morgan Hecox. He sat up, talked a bit and even smiled. He asked about what had happened at the bar and when told his good friend Ayala had died, he cried.

But Morgan developed internal infections and his kidneys began to malfunction, and then so did his liver. And his intestines were leaking.

"He is considered septic right now," Hecox said minutes before Morgan died.

Doctors told his mother, who arrived here Saturday from Albuquerque, N.M., that any further treatment was futile, that Morgan likely wouldn't survive another surgery. She then made the difficult choice to have him removed from life support Monday morning, leaving his family with nothing to do but wait for him to die.

Hecox said that although her son was unconscious for the last few days of his life, she held his hand and talked to him, hoping that would provide him some comfort.

"It's OK to go anytime you're ready," Hecox told her son. "Everybody here loves you."

While waiting at University during what would be her son's last hours, Hecox talked proudly of him, about his vast book collection and his immense love of music. Morgan had more than 100 boxes filled with books. He had always loved to read, absorbed much of it and used it to debate with anyone who would take him on.

"Although he just went through high school, he was so well read," she said.

And the music was why he worked as a doorman at Taco Land — a place Hecox thought was a pizza place. He loved the bands and being around musicians.

Hecox said there was a blessing in having to come here — she found out how many friends her son had.

Because they lived so far away from each other, Hecox worried constantly about the son she adopted when he was 3 months old.

She worried that he didn't have a bed to lie on because he was sometimes homeless. She worried about his health because he battled cancer and had hepatitis C. She also wondered if he was alone.

During her stay here, she found out he wasn't. A steady stream of musicians, artists and "even normal people," she said laughing, went by the hospital to visit her son.

"It's just been a revelation," she said. "There's this wonderful guy that half of San Antonio loves and that makes us feel welcome and proud."

Morgan's friends told her stories of his generosity and kindness, about how he babysat for friends and made sure the bands that played at Taco Land were taken care of. "It's been good for us to hear about it," she said.

Hecox said her son would be cremated, and although she would like to have his remains closer to her, she's not taking him with her.

"He belongs in Texas," she said sobbing. "So we'll leave him here."

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