It’s been just over six months ago that 34-year-old Rigoberto Arceo, father of four, was fatally gunned down by Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputies in the city of Cudahy in California. A death that has left friends and family members with indignation over what they hold was an unjust murder.
Loved ones are outraged by the misleading statements the Sheriff’s department has released following the shooting. According to Sergeant Rich Peña of the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s, Arceo and his sister, Maria, were pulled over on the night of the shooting for matching a vehicle description linked to a “confrontation” during a party just a few blocks away on Elizabeth St. Sgt. Peña claims that Rigoberto exited the vehicle, while ignoring deputies’ commands to put his hands up, and got in a “physical altercation” with an officer. Peña stated that Arceo then“started trying to get the deputy’s duty weapon,” at which point the deputy retained his gun and fired one shot, hitting Arceo “in the upper torso.”
Arceo’s sister Maria, however, has maintained otherwise. She has described that Rigoberto “got out with his hands in the air” that night, obeying the officer’s commands. Witnesses have also described Arceo’s body being dragged some feet away from the original location where he was shot.
Arceo succumbed to his wounds at the St. Francis Medical Center later that night.
Rigoberto and his family were gathered earlier that day at his and his fiancé’s home to celebrate mother’s day.
Just three days following Arceo’s killing, another man was shot and killed by officers in nearby Paramount. 37-year-old, Ignacio Ochoa, was unarmed and handcuffed when he was shot and left to die by Los Angeles officers.
Arceo’s passing was a devastating blow to his family, especially his longtime partner and soon-to-be-wife, Yoana, whom he had been living with for the last eleven years.
“The wedding was something that Rigo considered long overdue,” shared Yoana, who was scheduled to marry on August 3rd, earlier this year.
Since Rigo’s death, Yoana, along with their two sons Christopher, 11, and Nathan, 6, have been committed to seeking answers and demanding justice for the death of their loved one. They have joined other families of police killing victims throughout the state in a growing California movement against police brutality.
Last Saturday, following a callout by Yoana’s oldest son, Christopher, family and supporters gathered in the 4041 block of Walnut St, near the location where Rigo was downed by officers.
The rally began with an opening statement by Christopher.
“Thank you for coming out and supporting,” shared 11-year-old Christopher, “My dad was a wonderful man who helped everybody that needed help. He never let anybody on the side, he helped anyone anytime. I miss my dad and love him so much, the only reason why I’m doing this is for him.”
“This is the hardest thing in the world to come up and speak in front of people” added Damion Ramirez, whose friend, Michael Nida, was also killed by officers in October of 2011, “Even people that you love – especially to speak about something that hurts so bad. When we look into his eyes and when we look into the eyes of every single child who has to go through something like this, that’s our commitment, that’s our devotion, that’s our dedication, that’s our inspiration for getting out there on the street.”
After sharing some words, the group then continued towards the Florence Ave and Otis Ave intersection where they were met with flooding honks of support. With banners and signs in hand, Chris was accompanied by other victims’ families who marched and echoed the chants of, “No Justice, No Peace!”
One banner containing Rigo’s picture, was held up high as it read, “We want justice for Rigoberto Arceo. An innocent, unarmed man shot in the heart by sheriffs for no reason.”
The rally continued for about an hour until it came to an end just before 3PM that afternoon with Chris sharing a rap song he dedicated to his father. The emotional piece brought tears and strength to other families present, and embraced by chants of support, Chris and his family closed the gathering by singing a final birthday song for Rigo.
Family and friends would gather at Rigo’s burial site later that evening to celebrate what would have been his 35th birthday, which falls on November 20th. Mariachis played some of Rigo’s favorite songs as some of his favorite food and drinks were left as offerings at his gravestone. Messages written on white balloons where then released to float away into the sunset.
Arceo’s is one in a number of unceasing memorials throughout California where families have had to trade their loved one’s birthdays and memories in exchange for demonstrations, vigils, and visits to the cemetery. In just the last two months, the lives of Javier Arrazola Jr. (Reseda), Andres Avila (Pomona), Alfonso Limon Jr. (Oxnard), Michael Lee Nida II (Downey), Marcel Ceja (Anaheim), David Silva (Bakersfield), Jose de La Trinidad (Compton), Justin Hertl (Anaheim), and Andy Lopez (Santa Rosa) have been commemorated in their respective towns and communities.
These numbers only mount to the constantly increasing numbers of officer-involved fatalities. Since Arceo and Ochoa’s deaths, there have been at least 26 other police slayings in Los Angeles County alone, most of which have resulted from police fire.
Another memorial is planned to take place next month in memory of Cesar Cruz, who was killed by Anaheim police on December 9th, 2009 . The vigil is scheduled to take place on December 11th at 6PM in front of the Anaheim police department.