Apologies, I have been away from the computer for a few weeks due to heavy commitments. This week doesn’t look much better. However, I thought I would at least try to bring you up to date on an issue that doesn’t seem to want to go away – and for good reason.
While preparing my regular report on the upcoming city council meeting, I had a chance to view the video from the May 6th meeting where local citizens and activists from other cities managed to take up some time in public comments to -once again- protest the police shooting of Robert Villa. As you recall, protesters and outside rabble rousers managed to disrupt the city council meeting several weeks ago. At that meeting, the protests became so disruptve a visibly shaken Mayor Al Murray had to recess the council meeting. To his credit, he did not react to force the protesters outside. The May 6th protest was substantially less disruptive with protesters carrying signs and speaking in turn at the podium.
Villa’s mother was the first to speak and asked simply for the name of the officers who shot her son. Two other relatives of Villa also pleaded with the city council for action. One speaker, an outside rabble rouser who admitted he goes to various cities where police shootings have occurred, spoke “in support of the family”.
Mayor Murray, ever the gentleman, responded that the Orange County District Attorney’s Office was investigating the incident and the city would “make the findings known” to the public.
But, they weren’t done yet.
Other protesters, including the mother of Paul Quintanar who was killed in 2011 in a bizzare accident after a police contact, spoke to the council about putting a policy in place that would “help” the family members. The accident was investigated by the CHP and, I am sure, by the Tustin Police. I’m not sure what Marie Sales, Quintanar’s mother was looking for but it is a bit of a stretch to even blame the police for the young man’s demise since it was his running away from the police that inadvertently caused his death to begin with. Family members say they have trouble understanding why he chose to run. I imagine the police do too.
Sadly, Quintanar’s death followed that of his grandmother, who was also killed in a tragic accident near the location at where he died. That incident did not involve police contact, although the driver of the vehicle that hit her was not charged.
In any case, it is interesting to see the protesters coming from other cities (as if they don’t have enough to do in their own) to “support” the victims families here. It’s also interesting to see how the criminal and mental health history of the individuals is minimized by the protesters. While it is a sad day when anyone has to die, all circumstances must be taken into account. I would say after the District Attorney’s actions in the Kelly Thomas case, where a jury found the officers not guilty, his office is not likely to whitewash future officer involved shooting investigations.
Some of the protesters mentioned they would be back at future city council meetings. If the reason is to force the police and DA into moving faster, they are wasting their time. If a police coverup is suspected, I remind them that all officer involved shooting in this city are investigated by the district attorney’s office. Perhaps they should move their protest there, instead. In any case, your voices have been heard by the public and the city council. Murray has responded in the only way he could, given the circumstances. At the least, future protests should wait until the outcome of the investigation, which Murray said would be made public.
As I mentioned, Mayor Murray reached out to the protesters saying City Manager Jeff Parker and Chief of Police Charlie Celano were more than willing to sit down with families and protesters to discuss the incident and what was being done. When I contacted the city, I was told that not one protester has called to set up that offered meeting. One has to wonder what the true reason for the protests were if not to begin meaningful dialogue.