Dallas Police Chief apologizes for the 1973 murder of Santos Rodriguez by Darrell Cain

It is a murder that outraged a city and subsequently caught the attention of a president: a 12-year-old boy was shot in the head by a Da...


It is a murder that outraged a city and subsequently caught the attention of a president: a 12-year-old boy was shot in the head by a Dallas policeman playing Russian roulette with his gun duty in a patrol car.

The boy, Santos Rodriguez, who was of Mexican descent, had been handcuffed and questioned by the white officer for the theft of $ 8 from a gas station vending machine, a petty crime he claimed he had not committed . His older brother David, who had also been taken into custody, watched from the back seat of the patrol car.

Now, 48 years later, the Dallas Police Chief has done something his predecessors over the decades couldn’t or wouldn’t do. He apologized to Santos’ mother Bessie Rodriguez on Saturday during a memorial service at the grave marking the anniversary of the boy’s death.

“On behalf of the Dallas Police Department, as a father, I’m sorry,” Chief Eddie Garcia told Ms. Rodriguez. “We’re sorry that someone charged with protecting you, someone who wore the same uniform that I proudly wear today took your son and took David’s brother away for murder.”

Ms Rodriguez, 77, was given a bouquet of flowers and a police escort to Oakland Cemetery, where friends and community members remembered a young life that had been cut short.

Chief Garcia was just a toddler when Santos was shot dead by Darrell Cain, the now-deceased officer who only served half of a five-year prison sentence after being convicted of murder maliciously in connection with the death of Santos. But the leader, who was nominated this year and is the first Latino to lead the department, told Ms Rodriguez: “It was the first history lesson I had when I got here.”

The chief’s confession of guilt came amid a nationwide toll on officers’ use of lethal force and institutional racism following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year. This prompted similar apologies from police chiefs and elected officials for police brutality and other misconduct.

It was not the first time that a Dallas official has offered such an apology. In 2013, Michael S. Rawlings, then mayor, expressed remorse for the murder, which sparked protests in the city.

Ms Rodriguez could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday, but she said The morning news from Dallas after the service Chef Garcia had been very respectful.

“I have to forgive to be forgiven,” she said.

In the wee hours of July 24, 1973, officers responded to a gas station in what is now the Uptown section of Dallas after $ 8 was stolen from a vending machine, according to police reports at the ‘era.

After seeing boys flee from the area but lost them in the dark, police – who said they recognized them – went to the home of one of Santos’ parents, with whom he and his brother lived. , and were given permission to question the siblings.

While trying to coerce Santos into confessing, authorities said, Mr Cain pointed his .357 Magnum at the back of his head, pulling the trigger. But the room was empty. The second time he pulled the trigger, the gun fired, killing Santos.

“I don’t think even the word murder is strong enough,” Frances Rizo, a community activist who spoke at Saturday’s service, said of Santos’ murder.

In an interview on Wednesday, Ms Rizo said there were only two or three Latino police officers in the Dallas Police Department at the time. She congratulated Chief Garcia for his apologies.

“It took a Latino police chief to have the courage to go out and do it,” she said. “He also brought Latino officers to the event.”

Two days after the shooting, The Morning News reported that the fingerprints taken at the gas station did not match those of Santos.

Much to Bessie Rodriguez’s dismay, the Justice Department refused to prosecute federal civil rights charges against Mr. Cain, who died in 2019. This later prompted her to send a letter to President Jimmy Carter, which sent him a letter. responded in 1978 by saying that he understood his disappointment.

“I hope justice has been served to some extent by the vigorous state prosecution and the officer’s conviction for wicked murder,” Carter wrote. “Ultimately, I realize that no action can ever make up for the unnecessary loss of life. The grief you feel is shared by all of us.

Mr Cain had previously been charged with shooting and shooting an 18-year-old black man, but a grand jury did not issue an indictment against him.

In Dallas, a recreation center is named Santos, and a the memorial statue for him is almost finished.

“I realize that we have not yet healed as a city from the loss of Santos and the way we have lost Santos,” said Chief Garcia. “To heal, those who have done wrong must be contrite. “

Kitty bennett contributed research.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Dallas Police Chief apologizes for the 1973 murder of Santos Rodriguez by Darrell Cain
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