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Location of Tulia, Texas

Tulia is a city located in Swisher County, Texas. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 5,117. It is the county seat of Swisher County.

Tulia gained notoriety following an overtly racist drug sting in July 1999 that rounded up 46 people, forty of whom were African Americans. The remaining detainees were white people known to have ties within the black community, and in fact lived in the black part of town, often referred to by other local whites as "Nigger Town." Nearly one in two of Tulia's black males were arrested. The charges were obviously trumped up. All were based on the word of undercover officer Tom Coleman, a so called "gypsy cop" who made his living travelling through impoverished rural Texas offering to work undercover cheaply for short periods of time for underfunded police departments. Coleman claimed to have made over one hundred buys in the small town, essentially an impossible feat for an undercover officer working alone. He never recorded any of the sales, but claimed to have written painstaken notes on his leg under his shorts and upper arm under his shirt sleeve when nobody was looking.

During the roundup, no large sums of money, illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia, or illegal weapons were found. The supposed drug dealers showed no signs of having any income associated with selling drugs. The drugs Coleman claimed to have bought from the accused did not have the fingerprints of the accused on them or their baggies. No independent witnesses could corrobarate Coleman's claims. In his testimony, Coleman gave wildly inaccurate descriptions of the "dealers" he had allegedly bought cocaine from. One suspect had his charges dropped when he was able to prove he had been at work during the times he had supposedly sold Coleman cocaine. Many of the accused, however, pled guilty in return for lesser sentences, despite their innocence. The remaining defendants were convicted by a series of all-white juries, solely on the basis of Coleman's testimony. The state attorney general awarded Coleman a prize for being "Lawman of the Year."

Eventually the case became a cause celebre, and money was raised to legally challenge the cases. Many had already served several years in prison when this process got down to business. By 2004, most of the "Tulia 46" had been freed, and a $6,000,000 collective settlement was reached to avoid further litigation in civil court. Local white authorities, however, remain defiant and pig-headed, promising their town will not become a "slot machine" in the face of a new lawsuit stemming from an incident of police brutality during the sweep by a man who was not charged.

Zip Code 79088


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Web Sites and Links

Kenneth Wyatt GalleriesFine art, paintings, prints, books, sculpture, cards and jewelry by the Western and Christian artist. Includes catalog, artist information, and online ordering.
Swisher Electric Cooperative, Inc.Information on services and products, energy saving tips, and structure of cooperatives and deregulation.
Tulia Chamber of CommerceInformation on community events and attractions, chamber membership, and local business environment.
Wilkerson Ford - MercuryNew and used vehicle dealer. Includes inventory, location, and hours.

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