Families Affected By Police Killings Rally In Compton For Action
When Marissa Martinez first heard that sheriff's deputies had shot and killed her uncle, 36-year-old Jose De La Trinidad, back in November, she rushed to her computer to find out what was going on.
"I was just trying to find his story," said Martinez, "but so many stories other kept popping up."
Instead she found the names of other people who had been killed by law enforcement. People like Michael Nida, who was gunned down in October by a Downey police officer with a machine gun, and Martin Hernandez, shot and killed in March by the Anaheim Police Department -- people who Los Angeles law enforcement officers had shot and killed after mistaking them for dangerous criminals.
On Saturday, Martinez walked with her widowed aunt, the families of Nida and Hernandez, and others to Compton's Sheriff's Station for a rally demanding justice for De La Trinidad and other victims of police violence. A row of sheriff's deputies stood inches away from the rally to make sure the protesters didn't step past the station entrance. They didn't -- instead the protesters waved posters and demanded for consequences against overzealous officers.
The deputies looked out into the crowd and said nothing.
"I was kind of staring out at them [the deputies] during the rally," said Martinez. "I don't know if it really did anything -- I don't know if they felt anything."
Martinez and others who knew De La Trinidad remembered him as a cheery, devoted father who deeply involved himself in his daughters' girl scout troop and ballet recitals.
"We used to call him the man behind the cam," said Rosie De La Trinidad, Jose De La Trinidad's wife. "On the first day of school, he would be recording [his daughters]."
"He would be the only parent recording," she continued. "He always had his camera."
Blanca Robles was there when Jose and Rosie first met a decade ago. She joined Rosie at Saturday's rally.
"We all used to walk up to the coast," said Robles. "We would all hang out on the beach and have a good time -- that's why we went, to go hangout with Jose and Rosie."
"He was a beautiful soul," Robles continued. "He always made a joke out of something."
"If someone he knew shaved their face and they usually had a moustache, he'd crack a joke about that," recalled Vanessa Cervantes, a niece of Jose and Rosie. "He was always smiling, laughing."
It's Saturday afternoon and the protest demanding justice for Jose's death has just ended. T.V. crews pack their cameras and sheriff's deputies head back inside the station.
Robles wonders whether the deputies took the rally seriously.
"By the way they were laughing and looking at us..." she begins.
She pauses to find the right words.
"I would hope that some top official is going to see this...and hopefully...at least have a talk with them..."
Robles walks down the street with Rosie, Jose's nieces Vanessa and Marissa, and Jose and Rosie's daughters Jocelynn and Ariana. Accompanying Jose's relatives are Jean and Jerry Thaxton, the parents of Michael Nida; Damien Ramirez, Michael's childhood friend; and Sonia Hernandez, sister of the slain Martin Hernandez.
They've all attended to show solidarity for Rosie and families like them who have been affected by police violence.
"They report on the news only what the cops say," Jean Thaxton tells Jose's family. "That's what they did to our son...and you can't believe a word of it...even if it's true, that's still no reason to pull out a gun and shoot."
With regards to their own case, the Thaxtons are still fighting.
"The District Attorney found it justified because the cop said he feared for his life," said Jean Thaxton. In response, the parents filed a civil suit in federal court because they "feel like the federal judges are less biased than the local politicians."
"The only way to go is to go up to the next level," said Jean. "That's the only thing you can do."
[Correction, 1/28/13: Original article said Michael Nida was killed in Dempsey. The incident in October occured in Downey.]
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