The focus of controversial officer-involved shootings in Anaheim will turn to the Santa Ana office of the Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas tomorrow morning. Family members who have lost loved ones will hold a demonstration at 9 a.m. asking supporters to join in the effort.
“We've been protesting outside the Anaheim Police Department for a long time,” says Theresa Smith, whose son Caesar Cruz was killed in a 2009 officer-involved shooting in the city that was ruled justified by the DA. “They are very aware of why we are there.”
As for turning to the OCDA's office for Friday's demonstration? “We want to know why he continues to justify all these killings,” she says. “It's not just Anaheim. I've invited other people and other families from other places in Orange County.”
Anytime a law enforcement official is involved in an on-duty shooting, it's standard procedure for the OCDA to investigate the incident. With regards to Anaheim, there has been over forty officer-involved shootings dating back to 2003 with every single one of them deemed justified, including most recently in the case of David Raya earlier this month.
There's been other high profile incidents outside the highly scrutinized city such as the clearing of Orange County Sheriff's Department Deputy Darren Sandberg in the fatal shooting of U.S. Marine Sgt. Manuel Loggins Jr. at San Clemente High School.
In the aftermath of the officer-involved shooting on July 21 that killed Manuel Diaz, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait called for outside federal reviews from the FBI and U.S. Attorney General's office. “The matter remains under investigation by the OCDA and any subsequent investigation is pending their findings,” Anaheim public information officer Ruth Ruiz tells the Weekly.
“We were under the impression that they were going back a year-and-a-half,” Smith says, “But Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez said at a recent Los Amigos meeting that they were only investigating Manuel
This past summer also saw nearly 18,000 signatures collected for a petition calling on State Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate officer-involved shootings in Anaheim that were delivered to her Los Angeles office during a press conference.
“We are advised that the Orange County District Attorney's office is conducting a thorough examination into all of these incidents,” says Lynda Gledhill, spokesperson for the California Department of Justice. “Once that review is completed we can best evaluate what if any involvement by this office is appropriate.”
As to whether the petition signatures organized by national Latino advocacy group Presente.org constituted 'public interest' authorities allowing for State Attorney General involvement, no further comment was given.
In light of all of this, there's tomorrow's protest in Santa Ana and Smith has some choice words for Rackauckas.
“He needs to step up or step out, period.”