Angel Cruz, 20, was found dead at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Chicago while under police custody. The cause of death is still unknown and has prompted his family to demand answers from law enforcement.
Cruz was arrested on March 12 for allegedly stabbing Leticia Vargas, his own mother, and his stepdad. He was taken into custody by police in Countryside, Ill. — a Chicago suburb — before being transferred over to the Cook County’s Sheriff’s office. From the get-go, Cruz was displaying signs of mental illness. He was eventually taken to St. Anthony’s for medical treatment, where he ended up dying.
Vargas told ABC 7 that authorities told her Angel Cruz had died of a heart attack, but she still had questions. After all, Cruz’s body was covered in bruises when he was taken to the hospital.
“This is my only child, I want to know what happened to him. I’m not blaming anyone, I want to know the truth,” she said in a news conference.
Vargas isn’t the only one looking for an explanation. Leo Theelion Vargas, Angel Cruz’s uncle, took to Facebook [seen above] all but alleging foul play.
For their part, the Cook County’s Sheriff’s Office has been very adamant about their denial of any wrongdoing.
“There were no apparent signs of foul play whatsoever,” Cara Smith, spokesperson for Cook County’s Sheriff’s Office, said in a statement to CBS 2. “We’ll wait to see what the outcome of the toxicology tests show.”
“It’s certainly tragic what happened, but it’s unfair to suggest that harm came to him in the jail or in the custody of the sheriff’s office,” Smith later told the Chicago Tribune. “There’s no evidence of that whatsoever.”
The Cruz and Vargas have legitimate reasons to question the official police narrative, particularly one that’s as vague as this one. We are, after all, talking about Cook, the same county that went to great lengths to prevent the infamous Laquan McDonald dash cam tape from surfacing.
To read more about Angel Cruz’s mysterious death, click here.
Warning: This story is contains accounts of sexual assault, and can be disturbing to some of our readers.
Two weeks ago, four police officers were accused of raping a 17-year-old-girl in their patrol car. Two days later, another officer was accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in a museum. Friday night, protesters took to Mexico City streets armed with pink glitter and spray paint to demand justice for the teenagers, and all femicide victims in Mexico. The next day, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, the city’s first female mayor, announced the suspension of six police officers implicated in the first case. The officer on patrol at the museum has been arrested.
Still, after nearly a century of living under a police force that women are taught to fear, the women who started the #NoMeCuidanMeViolan (“They don’t take care of me, they rape me”) movement are demanding a declaration of a gender alert in the capital, and tangible action to end femicide.
An estimated 300 women flooded Mexico City streets, and even covered Mexico City’s Secretary in pink glitter.
One officer had been arrested on the grounds of rape the day before the protest, but the four who allegedly gang raped a minor in their patrol car were still active duty on the force at the time of Friday night’s protests.
Signs from the protest ranged from, “My friends protect me, not the police,” to “Sailor Moon taught me that you can kill monsters with glitter.”
The women ended the march at the Angel monument, where they raised their held hands up high.
The Angel monument celebrates the independence of Mexico from Spain, and is the chosen setting for quinceañera photo shoots, and town celebrations. The monument is a symbol of justice and freedom.
The protesters didn’t feel heard by the government, so they made sure the public hears them.
The base of the Angel monument was covered in “Kill the Patriarchy” and “Rape State” phrases, along with a pink feminist symbol on the culo of the lion. By morning, city workers had already begun power washing and repainting the base, now barricaded from view by a wooden wall.
A spokesperson for the National Fine Arts Institute said they were assessing the damage, and that the institute “respects freedom of speech and offers support for actions to eradicate all forms of violence against women.”
Police body-barricaded the doors of their station after protesters spray painted “RAPISTS” on its windows.
In a statement, Mayor Sheinbaum said she perceived the protest as a “provocation.” Sheinbaum thinks the protesters “wanted the government to respond with violence. But we’re not going to do that.” The protests ended five hours later around 11 p.m. when paramedics arrived to treat the injured, 14 of whom were police officers. Sheinbaum has said that there will be consequences for the violence.
The most recent rape cases ignited the fire of an already explosive rage beneath the surface for women in Mexico.
The United Nations estimates that an average of nine women are murdered every day in Mexico. The UN defines femicide as the deliberate killing of a woman or girl because of their gender, often after other violent, sexual crimes.
The Mexican government’s records of femicide rates are so inaccurate, journalist María Salguero, 40, has taken it upon herself to create her own map of femicides in Mexico. Salguero suspects that the state seeks to minimize gender-based violence, so she tracks the femicides for herself. Using Google alerts, Salguero records all of Mexico’s femicidal horror stories of 11-year-old taking the bus home and being found in the very same bus the next day, raped and murdered.
Mexican police have a long history of brutality against women.
“In the late 90s cops kidnapped three girls, three underage girls,” tweets one #NoMeCuidanMeViolan protester. “They raped them, and forced them to clean, cook and do stuff for them. One of them escaped and that’s how this was known. The three families however experienced retaliation.”
These stories are embedded in the fabric of Mexican society. Women have taken to social media to share the lessons their mothers taught them: to run from police. Never make eye contact. “Police are well known in #MexicoCity for being the main source of violence and corruption,” a protester tweets. “In 100 years since the establishment is #Mexico as we know it, no one has brought the police to account.”
Other teenagers have taken to social media to deliver chilling anticipatory goodbyes to their families.
If Human Rights Watch says Mexican laws do not adequately protect women and girls against domestic and sexual violence,” and law enforcement is actively raping young girls, how could they possibly feel safe?
To those more upset over vandalism than the violation of women’s bodies and lives, here’s your translation for the above graffiti: “The walls can be cleaned, but the girls will never return.”
#NoMeCuidanMeViolan protesters do not want to be compared to #MeToo.
“This week in #Mexico feminists protested against the rape of a 17-year old by cops,” tweeted human rights lawyer and journalist, Gisela Pérez de Acha. “As justice is non-existent and the media criminalizes victims, the #MeToo hashtag does not suffice. Latin American feminisms are amazingly organized. #MeToo is not our paradigm #NoMeCuidanMeViolan”
Pérez de Acha is right. In the aftermath of the march, major media outlets’ reporting has focused on the damage from protesters, rather than from police officers.
Some protesters knew the media would bypass the femicide and rape crisis and focus on property damage.
After coming home from the march, one protester tweeted their “final thoughts” about what tomorrow would bring. “Tomorrow’s headlines will inevitably emphasize the destruction of property by women protesting Mexico’s crisis of rape and femicide.”
Mexico’s largest media outlet, El Universal, chose to focus on the counter-protesters, “With hashtag #EllasNoMeRepresentan [They don’t represent me] condemn acts of vandalism during feminist march.” ABC News‘ headline read “Mexico City assesses monument damage after anti-rape march.” The Independent‘s headline chose to focus on a “TV presenter punched live on air during protest.”
So far, the media has quoted more art historians than protesters.
In fact, in all the major U.S. outlets we reviewed, we haven’t seen a single protester quoted in their stories. Instead of spreading more statements from art historians, mitú is aiming to amplify the voices that make up #NoNosCuidanNosViolan.
“I’m thinking about who the media criminalizes and how,” Mexico City journalist Madeleine Wattenbarger tweets. “About what we consider violence, about how the symbolic violence of breaking a window has more impact than the direct violence of attacking, raping, killing a human being.”
Estamos contigo, México. ✊🏾
The case involving four police officers allegedly raping a 17-year-old in a patrol car has gone cold after prosecution said there were inconsistencies in the teen victim’s testimony.
There is good news out there for marijuana users in Florida as prosecutors in Miami-Dade county announced they will no longer prosecute minor marijuana cases. The news comes as a result of new state law, the so-called “hemp bill,” which went into effect July 1, that has legalized hemp but has also caused much more costly problems. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office released a memo last week saying there is no police crime lab in South Florida that currently tests for a cannabis chemical that gets users high. This has now created a new challenge for law enforcement in trying to tell the difference between hemp and cannabis.
“Barring exceptional circumstances,” Miami prosecutors will no longer be prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana possession cases. When it comes to large amounts, enough for felony charges, police will now have to get lab tests to verify if it is real marijuana, not hemp.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a memo that authorities can’t “visually or microscopically” tell the difference between marijuana from hemp, which only has very small amounts of THC chemicals that it’s counterpart does. Now, due to the new law in effect, laboratory testing must be done.
“Because hemp and cannabis both come from the same plant, they look, smell, and feel the same. There is no way to visually or microscopically distinguish one from the other,” the memo states. “Similarly, since hemp can be – and is – also smoked, there is no olfactory way to distinguish hemp from marijuana.”
Rundle says due to the “Hemp Bill,” state prosecutors now need an expert on hand to testify that a substance is marijuana to prove their cases in court. This also means lab tests will have to be conducted by authorities to verify a substance. However, those lab tests come at quite the price according to Rundle.
“Up until now, there was no laboratory expense involved in marijuana prosecution cases, as any necessary testimony was from the Miami-Dade Police Department Forensic Services Bureau Crime Laboratory personnel,” the memo reads. “Since every marijuana case will now require an expert, and necessitate a significant expenditure by the State of Florida, barring exceptional circumstances on a particular case, we will not be prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana possession cases.”
The Miami-Dade Police Crime Lab currently doesn’t have the practice to perform a marijuana analysis. But according to Rundle, the department is in the process of developing the methodology to do so.
While the Miami-Dade crime lab currently does not have the capability to test for THC, this is all set to change in the next three to six months. According to Rundle, the eased enforcement of marijuana is a temporary thing until the county lab can perform such tests on their own.
“In the meantime, if there are any DEA certified private labs that can perform such testing in significant cases, and the police departments are willing to pay for such testing, then the prosecution of these cases could move forward,” Rundle said in the memo. “Once the MDPD lab can again conduct such testing themselves, then this all becomes moot. This is just a stumbling block and not a death knell to the prosecution of marijuana cases.”
The decision for the state to stop prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana possession cases highlights the growing obstacles for law enforcement in Florida and across the country in states where recreational marijuana is still considered illegal, but hemp is now allowed.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, prosecutors have been coming across this problem since the bill went into effect in July. They say the added expense of sending marijuana to labs outside of the state and getting expert witnesses to testify in court makes those options “prohibitive in all except the most serious of cases.”
Martin County Sheriff William Snyder says the state’s new regulations could be a dangerous move when it comes to enforcing marijuana laws as a whole. “This agency and most agencies around Florida will not be making marijuana arrests,” Snyder told West Palm Beach TV station WPTV. “Until we have a lab that can test, law enforcement efforts around marijuana are dead in the water.”
Nonetheless, as the attitude of marijuana as a whole has loosened in recent years, the enforcement of misdemeanor marijuana cases in Miami were not being prosecuted as aggressively as in the past. This might be a continuing trend in counties an states where hemp is legal but marijuana is not.