On July 24, 1973, 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez was shot and killed by a Dallas police officer. The crime sent shockwaves throughout the Latino community.
“We are sorry that someone you trusted to protect you, someone who wore the same uniform that I proudly wear today took your son and took David’s brother away by way of murder,” Police Chief Eddie Garcia said on Satuday.
The boy’s mother, Bessie Rodriguez, listened as the Police Chief apologized at a memorial at Oakland Cemetery. For members of the Rodriguez family and Dallas Latino community, it was an apology they had waited 48 years to hear.
“It’s a significant message for our community,” said Carlos Quintanilla of Action America. “Especially that the city of Dallas recognizes that the life of Santos had value and that what happened to him was an unconscionable act of murder.”
Rodriguez and his brother were accused of stealing 8 dollars from a vending machine. While being interrogated in a police patrol car, Dallas Police officer Darrel Cain put his gun to Santos’ forehead and pulled the trigger.
“This is part of the dark past that we need to learn from,” said Chief Garcia. “An apology is the least that we can do. I’m surprised that it’s taken this long.”
Cain was sentenced to just five years and served only half of that time. The Rodriguez Family never received any money or a settlement.
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“There was no due process of justice or justice for Latinos, it was a very tense and dangerous situation,” said Quintanilla.
In a time when race relations and violent crime are at the top of the priority list at the department, Police Chief Garcia says healing the wounds of the past is critical to building a healthy future.
“We can’t forget it, we always have to know that that’s part of the past because that is why we need to increase community trust," said Chief Garcia. "Our men and women need to recognize that trust has to be earned, it’s not given just because you wear this uniform and there’s a dark history for that being the reason.”