Things That Matter

Horrific Footage Shows Police Officers Shooting Teen In The Back Of The Head And His Partner’s Response Is Shocking

The proliferation of security and surveillance cameras has revealed cases of police malpractice and brutality that usually target Black and Brown minorities. These cases range from people being stopped by police cars and then getting beaten up following a minor discussion, to instances in which police officers fire their weapons with fatal consequences. Since the bashing of Rodney King in 1991, a case of police brutality that was caught on camera and sparked outrage in the Black community, the police has been increasingly scrutinized and instances in which procedure is not followed lead to legal battles. 

Such was the case involving Officer Ray Villalvazo and teenager Isiah Murrietta-Golding, who was fatally shot by the officer during a chase in Fresno, California.

The chase happened after Isiah and his brother were approached by the police while driving a car. They were suspects in the killing of a man who had been shot and then crashed his car into a tree the day before. Isiah’s brother later pleaded guilty to the murder. The footage of Isiah’s death has resurfaced due to a wrongful death lawsuit that is being contested. Yes, Isiah shouldn’t have run away, but, according to the teenager’s father, who acts as the plaintiff, the killing was premeditated and unjustified. Also, there is a justifiable suspicion in these cases when it comes to discrimination towards minorities. 

The incident took place in April 2017, but the heart-wrenching footage has just been released.

The incident took place while police was chasing Murrieta-Golding, an unarmed suspect. The fact that he wasn’t carrying a weapon is key, as the use of blunt force was ultimately unnecessary because the suspect did not represent a clear and imminent threat to the officers. However, an Office of Independent Review investigation concluded that the shooting was justified because the policemen believed that Murrieta-Golding was reaching for a weapon. As the Daily Mail reports, independent reviewer John Gliatta wrote: “‘The reasonableness of force is based on the officer making a split second decision after observing the suspect reaching for his waistband area several times during the foot pursuit”. But the footage questions whether the decision was really made in a split-second. 

Yes, Murrieta-Golding was wanted in connection to a homicide . Yes, as we have said he was a fugitive and the officers were within their rights to capture him, but that does not mean they had to shoot him while he was running away. 

The cop’s partner says “Good shot!” after the gun is fired… as if they were hunting or playing a video game.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the video is the soundtrack, in which you can hear Villalvazo’s partner praising him for the shot. “Good shot!”. That is as wrong as it gets, from any point of view in which you wish to analyze it. It objectifies the suspect turned victim and makes killing seem inconsequential, like not a big deal. We can only imagine the suffering that was inflicted to Murrieta-Golding’s family after hearing these words. This kind of language is totally dehumanizing, and an affront to anyone who has been the victim of police brutality or who has lost a loved one in a similar way. 

This takes police brutality to a whole new level: it reveals systematic cruelty.

Murrieta-Golding was shot on the back of the head after he had jumped a fence. He died three days later in the hospital. The boy’s father watched the video and now he believes that the use of lethal force was not justified.  Legal analyst Tony Capozzi told ABC30: “From the video, the officer just comes up, crouches down, and shoots”. This description is chilling as it describes a calculated, cold action that does not seem to have been a “split-second decision”. 

The plaintiff’s attorney is now pushing to consider the shooting unjustified, and the bodycam footage potentially supports the claim.

As ABC 30 reports, plaintiff’s attorney Stuart Chandler, who represents the boy’s father, said: “Isiah and his brother were considered possible or probable suspects. There was not a warrant for their arrest. There was no conduct by Isiah that day to ever show that he had a gun – because, of course, he didn’t”.

In the bodycam footage we can see the teenager stopping and then jumping the fence surrounding a daycare facility, at which point the officer aims and shoots. Chandler continued: “The law says there has to be an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury, which clearly there wasn’t. This young man was trying to run away. And you can be as critical as you want about how you shouldn’t do that, but it doesn’t give police the right to use lethal force”. The trial is set for October 2020. And Chandler is gearing up for the case, having recently told CNN: “The fact that the police department and the city of Fresno’s police auditor all agreed that this shooting was justified is troubling in light of the video that clearly shows that it’s not”.

A Texas Police Officer Gave A Homeless Man A Sandwich Made From ‘Dog Feces’ And He’s Back To Work Already

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A Texas Police Officer Gave A Homeless Man A Sandwich Made From ‘Dog Feces’ And He’s Back To Work Already

@KoltenParker / Twitter

Congressman Joaquin Castro called out a San Antonio police officer who was fired after colleagues reported him for feeding a dog feces sandwich to a homeless man but who successfully appealed his case. The incident happened in 2016, but Castro was reacting to an investigative journalism series on KSAT-12 called “Broken Blue.” 

Matthew Luckhurst, a bicycle patrol officer, was placed on indefinite suspension after the act was reported. However, Luckhurst won his case appeal through a loophole last March. San Antonio authorities insist he is still suspended and has not been reinstated to his job. 

Joaquin Castro calls out the San Antonio Police Department.

“One police officer gave a feces sandwich to a homeless man, was fired, appealed, got his job back,” Castro said of the importance of the “Broken Blue” series’ examination of San Antonio police corruption. 

The Texas representative believes law enforcement unions court public distrust when they side with bad officers.

“Police unions too often stand by bad officers regardless of how bad they’ve acted. It severely undermines public trust. I also believe the umbrella unions, such as the AFL-CIO, have a responsibility to speak up to help change this,” Castro continued. “These are some of the reasons I cannot support the further expansion of collective bargaining specifically for police unions across the country. Not until the disciplinary process is fixed and bad officers are properly held accountable.”

City Manager Erik Walsh echoed Castro’s feelings on collective bargaining to KSAT news

“Current collective bargaining agreement limits the Chief’s ability to appropriately discipline officers that deserve to be disciplined. We intend to bring those issues to the next contract negotiation with the police union,” he said.

The San Antonio Police Association (SAPOA) responds to Castro’s tweets. 

SAPOA released a statement saying the “Broken Blue” series was nothing short of an attack on the San Antonio police. The statement called the series “misleading and sensationalistic” and said that the cases featured were old and resolved several years before. 

“This series attacks SAPOA and our members by saying we’re too powerful and that we make it difficult to remove ‘problem’ officers,” Michel Helle, president of SAPOA, said in a statement. “While I agree we’re a strong organization when it comes to the discipline and appeals process, our role is simple and transparent: ensure that the rights of officers are observed and protected.”

SAPOA claims that in 10 years there have only been 40 “indefinite suspension” cases with 2,300 total police officers, making up .00017 percent of the force. Skeptics might say a lack of disciplinary action doesn’t necessarily equate to a lack of wrongdoing, which is precisely the issue many critics of law enforcement have.

In the Atlantic’s 2019 piece about police accountability, reporter Ted Alcorn suggests that local police departments lack the transparency that allows public scrutiny. 

“Compared with other institutions of municipal government, police departments are unusually insulated from scrutiny,” Alcorn wrote. “Whereas other agencies give the public an opportunity to comment on policy changes before they go into effect, the decisions of law enforcement may be shared only after the fact, if at all. While the police chief usually answers to the mayor, city councilors, or members of a police commission, those officials can be reticent about second-guessing their public-safety officials.”

Luckhurst was able to win his appeal through a legal loophole. 

Colleagues reported that on May 6, 2016, Luckhurst fed a dog feces sandwich to a homeless person while on bike patrol. While there were no witnesses to the incident or bodycam footage, police officers found out because Luckhursthad been allegedly bragging about it. 

At first, Luckhurst challenged the events. Instead, he claimed that while clearing an encampment filled with litter, he told a homeless man to toss a piece of feces with a piece of bread he had picked up. Then, Luckhurst challenged the May 6 date. He claimed he had medical documents that meant he wouldn’t have been able to bike from April 6 to June 14, 2016. 

An arbitrator decided that because of the date flub and a lack of evidence that Luckhurt’s indefinite suspension should be voided. His indefinite suspension was shortened to only five days. Last May, Chief William McManus said they overturned the decision because a policy requires punishments to be doled out with 180 days of the incident. 

“He is still facing a separate indefinite suspension and we will vigorously defend the decision to terminate him,” McManus said.

However, Luckhurst has not returned to work because of a different incident where he was placed on indefinite suspension. In June 2016, police allege that Luckhurst defecated in the woman’s bathroom stall at the police department’s Bike Patrol Office. Officers say he spread “a brown, tapioca-like substance” on a toilet seat, according to My SA. 

Luckhurst is currently on indefinite suspension while he awaits the outcome of this arbitration. 

A San Francisco Mural Is Honoring An Undocumented Guatemalan Immigrant Who Was Unarmed And Killed By Police

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A San Francisco Mural Is Honoring An Undocumented Guatemalan Immigrant Who Was Unarmed And Killed By Police

cialuart / Instagram

The people of San Francisco have a lot of heart. Yes, the wealthy thrive there, and the homeless community continues to grow, but somewhere in the middle is an empowering group of fighters for justice. They do not back down but instead make their voices heard loud and clear. It’s a tight-knit alliance that is responsible for forcing change on all fronts of authority. San Franciscans are also incredibly beautiful at honoring fallen residents. 

Almost five years after 20-year-old Amilcar Perez-Lopez was gunned down by police in San Francisco, artists are honoring him with a massive mural in the Mission District.

Credit: crashgrammy / Instagram

The mural was designed and directed in community and collaboration by Carla Elana Wojczuk with, Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth (HOMEY), Justice4Amilcar Coalition, Mission community, Lucía González Ippolito, and assisted by Flavia Elisa Mora; Lead Muralists: Carla Elana Wojczuk, Lucía González Ippolito, Cristian Muńoz, Anna Lisa Escobedo, Adrianna Adams, Flavia Elisa Mora (painting and poetry), Pancho Pescador; lettering: Sonia G Molin. The mural is titled “Alto al Fuego en La Misón” and the most prominent subject on the mural is Perez-Lopez, the undocumented young man from Guatemala.

On Feb. 26, 2015, Perez-Lopez was fatally shot by the SFPD, who were in plainclothes in the Mission District. The officers reported that they “opened fire to protect themselves and others from a man who was acting erratically and was armed with a knife,” the SFGate reports. Witnesses told a different story. They said Perez-Lopez was running for his life, which is why he was shot in the back. 

The Perez-Lopez investigation went on for years, and in the end, the SFPD was never charged, but Police Chief Greg Suhr did resign from his post. However, it wasn’t just because of the pushback from the Perez-Lopez investigation but from multiple fatal shootings of unarmed people at the hands of the police. His parents eventually won a settlement from the SFPD

Aside from the artful depiction of Perez-Lopez, the mural also pays tribute to Black and brown people who have died as a result of police brutality as well as people who have died on the southern border.

Credit: amaya_papaya28 / Instagram

During the year in which he was killed, Perez-Lopez “was one of the 67 Latino people killed,” the Guardian reports. The publication adds that Perez-Lopez was also one of the 58 percent who was killed and unarmed. 

“‘Why didn’t you put in Jessica Williams?’ Or, ‘Why didn’t you put in this person?’ The truth of the matter is that we just didn’t have enough space,” Ippolito told the SFWeekly. “And I wish we could include a lot more.”

Ippolito said she and the rest of the mural team were confronted with the fact they didn’t have enough space to put every person that lost their life because of the SFPD. The mural is already one of the largest murals “to be painted in the Latino Cultural Corridor in a decade,” according to the local publication. 

“That was the hardest part,” Anna Lisa Escobedo, another artist on this project, said to SF Weekly. “From the community, a lot of people were saying, ‘We are missing this person, this person, this person.’ We could do five more murals and focus on people who had the same circumstances, and that is sad.”

This isn’t the first artwork that has honored Perez-Lopez.

Credit: msmichellemeow / Instagram

His painted portrait was seen throughout the streets of San Francisco when residents demanded justice in his death. A couple of months after he was killed, artist YESCKA painted a mural that included Perez-Lopez. The mural was painted on the sidewall of the gallery Red Poppy Art House, which is located just blocks two from where Perez-Lopez was shot and killed. 

The mural by Ippolito is pretty remarkable because of its use of bright colors, and the inclusion of Mexican motifs, both the Guatemalan and San Francisco landscape, and Perez-Lopez in his signature Giants baseball cap. But the mural is also representative of an altar of sorts. Perez-Lopez is pictured inside an altar, and the rest of the people that are honored in the painting are seen on prayer candles. 

The other deceased individuals on the mural include Roxana Hernandez, Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, and Oscar and Valeria Martinez, who died either on the southern border or in ICE custody. 

Credit: cialuart / Instagram

This mural is a perfect addition to the many outstanding paintings that the city of San Francisco has to offer. 

One of my favorite things to do when I am back in the Mission is to go on a walking tour to gaze at the stunning murals that depict the people of San Francisco, but also the history of our community.  

READ: One Of The Major Artists In The Chicano Art Movement Has Died At 75