Dozens held a vigil outside the Robert T. Matsui Federal Courthouse in Sacramento Monday night to memorialize 31-year-old Michael Lee Nida II, who was killed by Downey police in 2011.
On October 22nd, 2011, Michael Nida, father of four, was out to have a birthday dinner with his wife. During a stop to get gasoline, Michael ran across the street to buy cigarettes for his wife. On his way out, being mistaken for a suspect in a nearby $40 ATM robbery, Nida was detained by Officer Steven Gilley. Having a fear of law enforcement, Nida fled from police only to be detained again a few minutes later. Michael managed to escape again only this time officer Gilley opened fire, shooting Nida in the back multiple times with an MP5 machine gun. Nida was not on parole or probation and was unarmed the night he was killed.
A year later, Los Angeles District Attorney ruled that officer Steven Gilley “acted lawfully in self-defense and in defense of others” and cleared Gilley of any wrongdoing.
Since his death, Michael’s parents, Jean and Jerry Thaxton, have joined forces with other families of police killing victims in a quest for justice for their loved ones.
During Monday’s vigil, the Thaxtons were accompanied by supporters and families of other police slaying victims such as Rigoberto Arceo (Cudahy), Ignacio Ochoa (Paramount), Robert Ramirez (Oxnard), Ernest Duenez (Manteca), Javier Arrazola Jr. (Reseda), Robert Henning (Los Angeles), Manuel Angel Diaz (Anaheim), Cesar Cruz (Anaheim), Marcel Ceja (Anaheim), Joe Whitehouse (Anaheim), Justin Hertl (Anaheim), David Raya (Anaheim), and Kelly Thomas (Fullerton).
After a prayer, victims’ families shared their loved ones’ legacy and the obstacles they’ve endured during their long quest for justice.
“I can’t stand it,” shared Jean Thaxton in front of a crowd of tears, “There are many nights I don’t sleep – I walk the floors and it’s been two years and I expect to do this the rest of my life and I will gladly do it the rest of my life. I would gladly do it the rest of my life if there’s anything I can do and we can do together to bring justice to our children.”
“They explained to me they cannot put murder on his certificate because they didn’t think they [officers] went with the intent to kill my son,” explained Teresa Ramirez, whose 26-year-old son’s death was ruled a “homicide” after being killed while in custody with Oxnard police , “Our kids were murdered – I don’t care what they put on paper, murder is murder, I got the papers to prove it.”
“We were together since we were fifteen years old,“ shared Joanna as she shared the emotion of losing her husband, Rigoberto Arceo, to police fire, “We didn’t get to get legally married, our wedding date was set for August third, we had everything planned and we didn’t get to have that because the cop decided to play God. Just like everyone else, he didn’t have a gun, he wasn’t a threat, he didn’t do nothing wrong but ask, ‘Why are you putting a gun to my head?’ – before we knew it, he was shot one time in the heart. He was a great father, a great person, he didn’t deserve that.”
“I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that the protection, the police officer’s bill of rights – or the bill of our injustices – has got to be changed,” shared Sara Hertl, sister of Justin Hertl, who was shot and killed by an Anaheim police detective in 2003, “without that change, we’re going to be hearing ‘justified’ over and over again.”
A dissolution of the Peace Officers Bill of Rights is one of numerous demands victims’ families have fought for during their demonstrations. Other demands include better training for officers and a community-based, civilian oversight committee not manipulated by the police.
“This an epidemic,” explained a member of the San Diego-based, Committee Against Police Brutality , ”this is not only an epidemic in California and in the United States, but all over the world…this whole globe is setting up a police state, and you are the target, your families are the target, all your loved ones are the targets...we need to bring it all in, we need to connect them [demands] all together.”
Monday’s vigil comes just a day before a multitude of people are expected to protest at the California state capitol building on what has been recognized as National Day of Action Against Police Brutality, or O22. The list of victims and the families representing them during Tuesday’s demonstration is expected to multiply as the action has been gathering support throughout the last months.
Families of victims who weren’t able to travel to Sacramento will be holding actions back in their home cities and numerous demonstrations throughout major California cities such as Oakland, Redding, Santa Clara, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Fresno are expected to take place in observance of National Day of Action Against Police Brutality. Other states throughout the United States such as Arizona, Washington, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Minnesota will host similar actions.