In a prelude to city council chaos in Santa Ana over a 'Fuck the Police' hat last week, Mayor Miguel Pulido praised policemen amid jeers during a previous meeting. Santa Ana Police officer John G. Rodriguez received a service award as one of the honorees on September 2 for being on the force 25 years—almost as long as the reign of the Pulidiato itself!
"He's received two Santa Ana police department service medals of valor for actions during encounters with armed suspects," the Don Papi said, mentioning the cop's many credentials. Left out, of course, is the fact that lawsuits filed this year allege officer Rodriguez used excessive and lethal force in shooting Jason Hallstrom, an unarmed man, in the back last year.
The Weekly reported that Travis Mock and Hallstrom led police in a car pursuit on March 15, 2013 that ended when the men crashed into a Nissan. They fled on foot from the car and got struck by bullets courtesy of Rodriguez and fellow officer Pete Picone.
"Hallstrom was shot in the back for running away from the police," claims attorney Jerry L. Steering who's suing on behalf of Hallstrom's daughter. "He was killed in cold blood."
The Orange County District Attorney's (OCDA) office didn't see it that way when they investigated the officer-involved shooting deeming it justified within policy. A full report hasn't been publicly released by the agency yet due to Mock's criminal case related to the incident.
But Rodriguez's involvement in a fatal police shooting isn't what motivated CopWatch Santa Ana activists and others to show up to this Tuesday's council meeting. In fact, they were unaware of the connection then.
Their beef with Rodriguez stemmed from him assisting in the arrest of "Bijan," the now-infamous man who wore the "Fuck the Police" cap that shut the council meeting down before it ever started. Bijan and fellow Copwatch Santa Ana activist Angel Juarez filmed Rodriguez and another officer October 1 at a stop on the 1500 block of East First Street. They claim the arrest (for allegedly blocking a public sidewalk) was a retaliatory act for the booing, jeering and protest signs during the September council meeting.
As for the ruckus raising "Fuck the Police" hat at the center of all the drama? It's made by the Wartime Collective in Los Angeles. The snapback is 100% cotton and vegan-friendly to boot!
"The hat represents an opposition to oppression, racism, and control of the population through fear tactics and brutality," Michael Torres and Sean Widup of the Wartime Collective tell the Weekly. "There are only two sides to the fight. And this gentleman [Bijan] has let the world know which side he's on."
The city won't be rescheduling a council meeting to make up for the meltdown. The next regularly scheduled one is set for October 21, just shy of the annual activist marking of "022" as anti-police brutality day. Should be fun!
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2