On Feb. 14, 2016, Eduardo Edwin Rodriguez was on his way home in East Los Angeles with two friends in a van when they were pulled over by the police. Police were suspicious of the van after it was seen leaving a parking lot that was known to be a dumping place for stolen vehicles. According to reporting by Los Angeles Times right after the incident, the police officers say Rodriguez refused to get out of the car when requested. They said he seemed “fidgety” and that made the officers nervous. What ensued, according to the police officers, was a “violent struggle” that escalated after one of the officers saw a gun. After Rodriguez broke from one deputy’s grips, they opened fire, killing him in the middle of the street. That was the story then. Now, it has changed.
A year and a half later, the family is seeking justice in a wrongful death lawsuit. New court documents are placing the focus on one of the deputies and a sergeant, Andrew Alatorre, who were there on the scene, according to LA Weekly. The document, which was compiled from testimony and accounts from seven of the officers that were on the scene, allege that Alatorre fired at Rodriguez 14 times at close range while he was injured, unarmed, and face down on the ground.
“During that struggle several deputies were in close physical proximity to Edwin Rodriguez, were actively trying to control him by grabbing at his arms, and were striking and pummeling him repeatedly, causing him to raise his arms in self-defense to thwart the blows,” the motion reads, according to LA Weekly. It was during this struggle that one of the deputies urged her fellow deputies to shoot to subdue him so they could detain him. Once he fell to the ground, according to LA Weekly, Alatorre walked up to Rodriguez and asked him to show his hands. When Rodriguez did not, he shot Rodriguez in the back 14 times. Deputies claim that his hands were under his body but the family’s attorney disputes the claim, saying that photos from the scene show his hands outstretched over his head.
LA Weekly has also reported that this is not Alatorre’s first time being sued for a shooting incident. Back in 2014, Alatorre was called to a suicide attempt in Maywood, Calif. During the call, Alatorre misidentified an object in Salvador Palencia’s hand as a knife. Alatorre shot and killed Palencia before it was discovered that Palencia was holding a cake spatula, according to LA Weekly.
Police have attacked and shot another unarmed Black man. This time the victim is 29-year-old Jacob Blake, who is still alive but fighting for his life in serious condition.
Video of the attack – which has since gone viral on social media – shows Blake attempting to get back into his vehicle when he is grabbed by police and shot at least seven times right in the back. The video tells a damning story and protesters have already taken to the streets demanding the police officers responsible be held accountable for their actions.
To many, the attack is further proof that the American policing system is broken and has no value for the lives of Black Americans.
Outrage is growing as video shows police shoot an unarmed Black man in the back at least seven times.
In Wisconsin, police have shot another unarmed Black man – which is leading to widespread protests. The two officers are on leave as state authorities investigate the shooting.
Video circulating on social media shows the victim – Jacob Blake – being shot multiple times in the back as he entered the driver’s side door of his SUV. Currently, Blake is in serious condition fighting for his life.
Attorney Ben Crump, who now represents the Blake family, posted a video of the Sunday evening shooting in Kenosha. The footage spread across social media, sparking protests and leading county officials to institute a curfew that remained in place until Monday morning.
The attack unfolded on a residential street packed with apartment buildings, a block from a city golf course. In the video clip, Blake walks around the front of a gray SUV with two officers a step or two behind him, one with his weapon trained on the man’s back. As Blake enters the driver side door of his car, the nearest officer grabs the tail of his tank top and seven shots are heard. The man entering the car appears to go limp. A sustained car horn blares. A woman nearby jumps up and down, apparently in anguish.
Jeffery Robinson, a deputy legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union, said Blake’s death – along with Floyd’s outside a Minneapolis grocery store, Taylor’s in her own home and Eric Garner’s in front of a New York bodega – demonstrates “the very institution of American policing is rotten at its core.”
Of Blake’s shooting, Robinson said, “With each of the seven shots fired, the police department made their intent clear – they believed they had the right to kill an unarmed Black man for the crime of walking away from them.”
Blake was allegedly trying to break up a domestic dispute between two women when police approached him.
In a tweet, Crump, who represents Floyd’s family, says the man was leaving the scene after “breaking up a fight between two women.”
Officers were called to respond to a domestic disturbance, police said, but it’s unclear who called 911 or what happened before the video recording begins. In a police call, a dispatcher says Blake “isn’t supposed to be there” and that he took the complainant’s keys and refused to leave. The dispatcher later explains she doesn’t have more details because the caller was “uncooperative.”
Blake’s own children were in the vehicle and watched their father get shot by police.
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said Blake’s three young sons were in the car.
“They saw a cop shoot their father,” Crump said on Twitter. “They will be traumatised forever. We cannot let officers violate their duty to PROTECT us. Our kids deserve better!!”
Protests are beginning to pop up across the country, as others continue to mourn the loss of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd – among so many others.
The attack on Jacob Blake comes as demonstrators continue to protest against police violence in American cities, including the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
The night before Blake’s shooting, protests erupted in Lafayette, Louisiana, after police killed a Black man – Trayford Pellerin, 31 – outside a convenience store.
In Kenosha, a city of 100,000 located between Chicago and Milwaukee, protesters overnight broke windows and sprayed graffiti at a Kenosha County administrative building, according to CNN affiliate WISN. Vehicles at a nearby auto dealership were torched, a fire was started at a county courthouse and officers in tactical gear formed a line to protect a public safety building, the station reported.
Before the sun rose Monday, numerous dump and garbage trucks remained smoldering on the street after being set ablaze. The courthouse and administrative building were closed Monday, and all court hearings for the day are postponed, the county said on Facebook.
Still, unrest continues.
During the third night of protests over the shooting of Blake, two demonstrators were killed after clashes with law enforcement raged outside of an Illinois County Courthouse.
After protesters moved their demonstrations outside of a gas station in Kenosha, Wisconsin shots were fired outside leading to two fatalities, and one person being left with injuries that were not life-threatening. Court documents from Lake County, Ill., reveal that Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, was arrested on Wednesday morning in relation to the shooting. He has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the fatal shooting . According to The New York Times, “Antioch is about 30 minutes southwest of Kenosha, just over the Illinois line. More details were expected during a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.”
Of the numerous ways we lost friends, neighbors and members of the community this past year, the most frustratingly avoidable one was through police brutality. Unfortunately, the statistics for police brutality in the United States — specifically against Black and brown citizens — is staggering. According to MappingPoliceViolence.org, police killed 1,147 people in 2017. Black people were 25% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population. If you’re Black, you are 3 times more likely to be killed by the police than a white person. What’s even more unjust, of all these crimes and murders, those involving police officers usually don’t receive punishment. For example, in 2015, 99% of the cases involving defendants who were police officers saw no convictions.
Despite these appalling statistics, the family of Atatiana Jefferson beat the odds and got one step closer to the justice they seek for her death this week when it was announced that former officer Aaron Dean was indicted for the crime of her murder.
On December 20th, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office in Fort Worth confirmed that a Texas Grand Jury voted to indict the 35 year-old former officer for the October shooting death of Jefferson, a 28-year-old pre-med graduate student.
In the early morning hours of October 12, Jefferson was babysitting her 8 year-old nephew at her mother’s home. The two were playing video games together when the harmless family fun turned deadly. The pair heard something outside the house so Jefferson grabbed her licensed handgun and aimed it out the window. Almost instantly, the young grad student was shot and killed by Dean who — along with another officer — had entered the home.
The two cops were responding to a welfare check Jefferson’s neighbor had requested because they noticed the home’s front door was slightly open. According to the body-cam footage that was released after the incident, Dean did not identify himself as a police officer before discharging his weapon. Instead, the former officer simply stated the commands, “Put your hands up — show me your hands,” before a single shot is fired seconds later.
The decision to seek a grand jury indictment came a week after Jefferson’s death.
Public outcry demanded that the Tarrant County prosecutors take the case seriously. In a statement to the press, prosecutors revealed they had enough evidence to ask for this indictment, and intended to “prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law.” Less than two days after the incident that resulted in Jefferson’s death, Dean had submitted his resignation to the force. Within hours of resignation, he was booked at Tarrant County Corrections Center for the murder to Jefferson and was later released on a $200,000 bond.
Police Chief Ed Kraus expressed frustration and anger at the former officer, promising, “Had the officer not resigned, I would have fired him for violations for several policies, including our use of force policy, our de-escalation policy and unprofessional conduct.”
Still, this is a rare case. Murder charges don’t often stick to police officers so Jefferson’s family and people who support justice for her life are taking it step by step.
One of the attorney’s for the Jefferson Family, Lee Merritt took to Twitter to share the news of Dean’s substantial indictment. Still, this is a far step away from a conviction and even further from a sentencing. With all these steps still ahead for the Jefferson Family, the justice process is sure to be exhausting. Still, as Merritt tweeted, they must “keep pushing” until they get to the end and remain cautiously optimistic that the fairness of the law will prevail for Atatiana.
The outrage that helped this case get this far was sparked by another act of police injustice in Texas.
In 2018, Botham Jean was killed in his own home by neighbor police Officer Amber Guyger. She claimed that she thought Jean was an intruder in her apartment but mishandling of the case by the Dallas P.D. suggested a cover up and the story made national news. Guyger eventually resigned from the force and was found guilty of first degree murder. However, the former police officer was only given 10 years for her crime. A judge also recently dismissed the civil suit that the Jean family had against the City of Dallas and the Dallas P.D. for mishandling Botham’s murder investigation. If nothing else, hopefully the anger that’s felt for these unaddressed acts of police brutality will motivate the Jefferson case and find the justice Atatiana deserves.