Bullets After Brunch

Marc Kajs repeatedly asked the police for protection. They said theycouldn't do anything until his stalker physically harmed him. Eight bulletslater it was too late.

Gloria can't stand to see pictures of Ilhan with Marc. Talking about Ilhan makes her cry. Talking about Marc makes her cry. She still calls his friends and their relatives, wanting to talk about Marc and keep his memory alive. Some stopped answering the phone or returning her calls. Relatives have asked her not to talk about Marc because it's too upsetting. They can't take her tears or the fact that she can't get past her anger and loss.

Maybe the lawsuits will give Gloria some closure and help her sleep. She just wants someone to admit that there was something more they could have done to help her boy. After the killing, Mayor Lee Brown went on the news saying the police department had handled the matter the best it could. Councilwoman Annise Parker says that unquestionably there's homophobia in the police department but she hasn't seen evidence that it affected Marc. She says there was nothing more the police could have done to help him. "If someone wants to get you bad enough, there's not anything anyone can do," Parker says. Even with the Secret Service, people still shoot the president, she says. Kline, of the Family Violence Unit, agrees. Protective orders, pieces of paper, don't work unless the person abides by them, and if the aggressor is bent on killing himself too, he won't care what the punishment for the murder is because it won't apply to him. The only thing officers can do is tell the victim to "stay safe," avoid work and places the batterer expects the victim to be; women's shelters take men too.

Gloria has filed a federal suit against the city for violation of Marc's constitutional rights, due process and equal protection. Attorneys Robert Rosenberg and Stephenie Shapiro argue that the police created a dangerous situation by not enforcing domestic violence laws and ignoring the stalking and terroristic threats. The lawsuit also deals with the fact that HPD didn't have anyone on staff to help Marc that weekend, when it's known that most domestic violence happens on the weekend. A state court lawsuit has also been filed against Urbana and the owner of the property, BTI/Hawthorne Square, LTD., for failure to provide appropriate security. The attorneys argue that the owner of Urbana failed to protect his employee. He knew Ilhan was a threat, but he didn't ban Ilhan from the restaurant. Maybe that wouldn't have prevented Marc's murder, but it would have given Marc one more safe place to be. Donna banned Ilhan from her restaurant, and he went away. Maybe Ilhan would have steered clear of Urbana. Owner Puente says Marc's death is not in any way his fault. Marc was not shot inside the restaurant, he died on the sidewalk out front -- and Puente doesn't even own the land the restaurant is on. As for it not being Urbana's property, the lawyers argue that the restaurant knew they were in a high-crime neighborhood and could have asked the property owner to hire a security guard to patrol the parking lot and protect patrons. Urbana stayed open for dinner that night; it did a pretty good business, Puente says. Customers left stacks of cards saying what a great guy Marc was. Puente never sent a sympathy card, or flowers, or went to Marc's memorial service or funeral.

Gloria and Ed Swidriski want to know why the police didn't protect their son.
Deron Neblett
Gloria and Ed Swidriski want to know why the police didn't protect their son.

The police chief, C.O. Bradford, said Marc's death was an unfortunate tragedy. "I don't want it to be just 'an unfortunate tragedy,' " Gloria says. "It shouldn't have been a tragedy." Bradford told newscasters that he couldn't find any reports Marc had filed, except for the one 11 hours before his death. One report is not enough to gauge how serious a stalker is. A few months later HPD discovered two more reports that Marc had filed.

Since Marc's death, HPD's Family Violence Unit has been decentralized, and it's now open downtown from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the weekends. Officers have gone through "sensitivity training" too, but they said they would have gone through that regardless. There were four deaths as a result of domestic violence in April, Kline says. There are 25 officers and a three-foot-tall stack of 2,500 reports. She tries to document and pursue everything, but domestic violence is hard to prove and even harder to prevent.

That's not enough for Gloria. Marc's unpublished novel says he didn't want to end up just another cross on the side of the road. Right now, Gloria says, that's all he is. She wants more -- because her son is gone and she can't ever have him back.

E-mail Wendy Grossman at wendy.grossman@houstonpress.com .

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