Drums, chants, and honks of support filled busy Los Angeles streets on Saturday as dozens marched in support of 23-year-old Carlos Ernesto Oliva who was killed by Sheriff Deputies just over three months ago.
The shooting took place on Tuesday, September 10th of this year just around 1:30 A.M. when officers responded to an unrelated incident in the City Terrace area. Deputies state that while responding to the call, they were “flagged down” that morning by a report of a man with a gun. Officials claim they identified Oliva as the “man with the gun” and a “struggle ensued” when confronting Oliva. Deputies claim that Oliva then pointed a gun at officers, which prompted the shooting. Detectives reported that Oliva tried to leave, but collapsed on the Miller Ave and E Almanza Ln intersection.
Many details of the “official police report” remain unclear, but Oliva’s family asserts that Carlos did not own a gun, and witnesses have stated that Oliva was shot from behind while trying to run away from officers. The family demands that deputy Forlano be charged for the “cold-blooded” killing of Carlos, who was simply “riding his skateboard” back home when he was shot from behind.
Also disturbing to the family and community supporters is the fact that the deputy involved, 18-year veteran, Anthony “Tony” Forlano, has been involved in six other shootings in the past. In three of the cases were Forlano assumed the “suspects” had a weapon, the victims were found to be unarmed. After his last “shooting incident,” Forlano was assigned desk duty in the Community Oriented Policing Services (C.O.P.S.), as has been customary for Los Angeles Sheriff deputies who have gunned down people in the past. This was the second time Forlano was assigned desk duty. He had been removed from patrol following his fifth deputy-involved shooting in August of 2008. Forlano was just recently back on the field, returning from nearly two years of desk-duty.
In one of the “incidents,” Los Angeles County agreed to pay a $150,000 “out-of-court” settlement to settle a civil rights lawsuit for the shooting of Salvador Montoya in September of 2004.
Another pending lawsuit remains for the wounding of Osvaldo Ureta during a 2011 shooting.
“The truth is that I am emotionally – they have left me hurt, because they have taken a piece of my life away,” shared Oliva’s mother, Olga, during Saturday’s rally, “Only one who is a mother knows the pain that I am living through right now. We are also here, united so that this officer be punished, so that he can’t continue to take advantage of humble people, killing innocent people.”
Olga has explained that the night of the shooting, Carlos Oliva was on his way home after practicing his guitar with a friend, both of which were part of their church’s music band.
“It’s good to see the unity among all of us here together,” shared Carlos Montes, a co-founder of the Brown Berets, “Police brutality on the part of East L.A. Sheriffs has a long history up here in East L.A…a long history of racism, brutality against the Mexican, Chicano, Latino community and African American community, especially the young people. It happens every year…Its good to be here publicly because many people are afraid to come out and show and protest here in East L.A. because the sheriffs have this community terrorized, they think they own East L.A., they don’t respect us, they abuse us, they shoot us, they kill us, they jail us!”
Among the Oliva family’s demands, the mother demands that the “security hold” placed on Carlos Oliva’s autopsy report be removed. Family expects the coroner’s autopsy report to confirm that Oliva was shot from the back, countering official’s claims that Oliva faced officers while pointing a gun. Oliva’s mother describes that she hasn’t even been allowed her son’s personal belongings. All the family has of Carlos is an incomplete death certificate that maintains an undetermined cause of death.
The rally-turned-march advanced onto busy L.A. streets with the message of, “Sin justicia, no hay paz!” or, “No justice, no peace.” Oliva’s mother carried a large picture of Carlos as family and supporters’ pounding strides echoed throughout the streets. Oliva’s family was also accompanied by other victims’ families from neighboring cities such as Anaheim, Downey, and Paramount.
The march ended with a rally at the East Los Angeles Sheriff station located on the 5019 block of East Third Street. This station, responsible for the unincorporated area of East Los Angeles and the cities of Commerce, Cudahy, and Maywood, is where deputy Anthony Forlano worked prior to the shooting.
Captain James P. Wolak of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department faced family and demonstrators during the rally.
“Six people before my brother?” questioned Carlos Oliva’s sister, Bianca, “What do you think that is!? He’s a maniac, he’s a murdered, he needs to be in jail. A lot of you guys [sheriffs] need to be in jail.”
“I was there when they shot and came in to my house and shot my son three times,” explained another police shooting victim’s mother as she confronted Captain Wolak, “Deputies are out of control – you do not own the streets, and I’m here to say that I am filming, I am taking pictures, I’m watching you guys…You guys [sheriffs] think you own East L.A., but I’m here to tell you we are East L.A., we are the community, and we’re going to be watching!...I’m going to make sure – see this face? – I’m going to make sure that everyone here in the East L.A. Sheriffs department is accounted for, all of you deputies!”
Oliva’s mother plans to initiate a private investigation.
Sheriff Deputy Anthony Forlano remains in “administrative leave.”
The rally concluded with supporters and other families lending support and encouragement for Oliva’s family. An open invitation was also extended for a vigil that would be held the following day in memory of Ignacio “Nacho” Ochoa, also fatally shot by officials earlier this year in the city of Paramount. Family would celebrate what would be Ochoa’s 38th birthday.