Last night, family and friends gathered for an evening vigil outside the Anaheim Police Department to remember the life of Caesar Cruz. The 35-year-old father of five was killed by cops on December 11, 2009 in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Anaheim Plaza.
Four years later, Theresa Smith, Cruz's mother who began protesting weekly outside the police department soon after her son's violent death that turned into a loosely organized space for more families to join as others were killed, vowed to keep up her fight for justice. She also declared herself ready for 'restorative justice' in the form of forgiveness for the Anaheim officers who opened fire on her son.
Flames from candles flickered into the night's chill. In years past, the vigil has been held at the very Wal-Mart parking lot where the shooting took place, but the pain of being there is still very raw and intense for family members.
As everyone gathered in a circle, Smith began the vigil by reading "I'm Sorry Mom," a poem by Zonda Davis. The words sounded like they could have been written by Cruz to his mother herself which caused the grieving mother to intermittently cry throughout the recitation.
The Orange County District Attorney's office, of course, deemed the shooting justified. Smith spoke to supporters of her vow to continue searching for answers and accountability. "Little by little things are coming out and one day we are going to get our justice," she affirmed. Smith has an ongoing wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Anaheim and its police department that has not come to a settlement.
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"Let me tell something that I'm going to do," she added next. "You're probably going to think I'm crazy but I have to do this. Next year, I'm going to meet with each one of the police that shot my son. All I'm going to say to them is that I forgive them." She says that the encounter is something she needs for herself and her deceased son.
Next December will mark the 5th anniversary of the shooting. Officers involved include detectives Bruce Linn, Philip Vargas, Michael Brown, Kelly Phillips and Nathan Stauber. Smith says that her plan at this point is just an idea she has in mind. Whether or not Anaheim police take her up on it remains to be seen.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz