Statue to be Dedicated for Child Murdered by a Police Officer Nearly 50 Years Ago

Artist hopes the statue helps convey the loss and hope for the future

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A statue will be dedicated Saturday as a memorial nearly 50 years after the murder of Santos Rodriguez by a Dallas Police officer.

The statue of the 12-year-old boy is in Pike Park where Rodriguez once played, in what is now the rapidly changing Uptown Dallas neighborhood that used to be known as Little Mexico.

Dallas City Council Member Jesse Moreno, who grew up in East Dallas, said the statue brings strong feelings for him. He wants others to know the story that his parents told him about what happened to Santos Rodriguez.

“They felt that it was important for me as a young Latino boy to know the story. So that’s why we’re here today, to be able to preserve the story for future generations,” Moreno said. “When I see the image of Santos, I see myself, looking into a mirror. I see my cousins.”

Santos Rodriguez was shot in July 1973 by then Dallas Police Officer Darrell Cain who was playing Russian Roulette with a gun to the boy’s head, demanding a confession for theft from a vending machine, which Rodriquez did not commit.

Those facts came out in Cain’s trial, where the now-deceased former officer was convicted of murder. But Cain only received a prison sentence of five years.

Last year, new Chief Eddie Garcia was the first Dallas police leader to formally apologize to the boy’s mother Bessie. She declined to speak about the statue Friday but is expected at the dedication ceremony Saturday.

At the time of the crime, Pike Park was the center of Little Mexico but it is now surrounded by Victory Park, the American Airlines Center and high-rise Uptown buildings.

Moreno was a member of the Dallas Park Board when the Pike Park location was selected for the statue.

“This park will be here forever. It is a part of Dallas that will never be developed,” Moreno said.

The actual spot in the park was once a small city swimming pool that Rodriguez used as a boy, Moreno said.

Artist Seth Vandable created the statue. He spoke with Bessie Rodriguez about Santos in the early stages of his work. Vandable said the mother's story is heartbreaking and should have had lasting public attention long ago.

“It’s an honor to have a small share in it, hopefully, have a part in something that’s healing for this family and the community. But it’s daunting too to create a singular image that documents the magnitude of this tragedy and honors the family by showing exactly what was lost, a child,” Vandable said.

The artist said he hopes the piece carries a strong message for people who see it in the future.

“The question is can I do better, can I care about people more and if we get that answer individually, then these kinds of tragedies won’t continue to happen,” Vandable said.

The dedication ceremony is at 10 a.m. Saturday at Pike Park on Harry Hines Boulevard in Dallas.

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