ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Nine-year-old Omaree Varela looked on quietly as the adults in his life explained away the obscenity-laced tirade that could be heard on a 911 call last summer.
He said nothing, except to offer to retrieve a telephone, as two police officers arrived to question his mom, Synthia Varela-Casaus, and her husband, Steve Casaus, about the phone call.
The officers questioned them at their front door for 15 minutes. Their explanations seemed to satisfy the officers, as shown on lapel-camera video released by police on Wednesday.
“You guys seem like a good family, a decent family,” one officer says, reminding the two adults to be careful about what they say around children. “… I’m going to overlook it right now.”
Omaree died six months later, allegedly after his mother kicked him. He would have turned 10 this week.
The officers apparently hadn’t heard the disturbing phone call that triggered their dispatch. In fact, one says specifically that he hadn’t heard the call, though he tells VarelaCasaus and Casaus that it’s been recorded by 911 operators, who described it to him.
During the call, the male adult repeatedly berates Omaree and tells him how much he hates the boy.
The officer says he’s been told it was a violentsounding call. “We’re not violent people at all,” Casaus says. Omaree Varela, wearing a blue Batman T-shirt, simply watches, his eyes wide and fixed on the two officers at the door. The officers didn’t directly ask him any questions, though one officer asks the kids whether they’re alright and Omaree nods his head.
During most of the conversation, the officers were inside near the front door. One walks through the house, peering into other rooms, and then returns.
Varela-Casaus and her husband offer several explanations for why yelling might be heard on a 911 call.
It was two other people in the neighborhood fighting, Varela-Casaus says at one point. In another, she and her husband say it was simply an argument after a child spilled a drink in their car.
On the recording of the 911 call, the man can clearly be heard yelling at Omaree, calling him by name several times.
Casaus, a cigarette in his hand, towers over Varela, who is at his side. He describes the three children in the video as his step kids.
As for the yelling: “It’s just because they don’t listen, and I was just stressed out,” he says. “I was just having a bad day.”
He said he gets frustrated sometimes because Varela-Casaus has so many kids. She tells the officers that her husband isn’t “really a kid person.”
“I just try to teach them responsibility,” Casaus said. “I’m trying to raise them up right.”