Multiple families, supporters, and community members held a rally in Bakersfield on Saturday to protest the increased “police terror” inflicted onto their communities. The rally took place at the Stockdale Hwy and California Ave intersection, location that local Bakersfield residents have continuously used for demonstrations on social justice for over a decade.
Many Bakersfield families have long protested the killing of their loved ones by both police and Kern County sheriffs. These include the deaths of John Oren Biggs, David Lee “Deacon” Turner, James Moore Sr., David Sal Silva, Jorge Ramirez, and Ronnie Ledesma. Many of these deaths have been ruled “accidental” by officials.
David Sal Silva’s fatal beating by Kern County sheriff deputies in May of last year got much media attention after footage of the beating and a 911 call recording was released where a caller described the event that left 33-year-old Silva on the ground, lifeless.
“There’s a man laying on the floor, and your police officers beat the shit out of him, and killed him,” described the 911 call, “I have it all on video camera. We videotaped the whole fucking thing!”
A few weeks later, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood indicated that the coroner’s report found that the cause of Silva’s death was“hypertensive heart disease” as well as other “contributing factors” such as“chronic alcoholism, severe abdominal obesity, chronic hypertensions, and acute pulmonary cardiovascular strain” and concluded that the “manner of death, is accident.”
Youngblood was also quick to blame “the media” for causing ”hysteria” over Silva’s killing.
“The media caused a lot of this hysteria that occurred in this community,” claimed Youngblood, “this type of incident is not uncommon in law enforcement across this country. This particular case and the way that this was handled in the media sent shock waves all across the United States.”
Youngblood also defended and justified the actions of the eight officers involved.
“Sometimes in a confrontation, you have to do what you have to do to keep someone from hurting themselves or hurting officers,” he stated.
“Police shoot, sheriffs beat,” stated Teresa Ramirez during Saturday’s rally. Her son, Jorge Ramirez, was shot and killed by Bakersfield police last year. Ramirez was a police informant, who as his family explains, “was sent to his execution” on September 16th last year. The family seeks an independent investigation to be held over Ramirez’s death especially since Bakersfield police were aware that Ramirez was a confidential informant the day they crossed fire with Justin Bryan Harger at a local Four Points Sheraton Hotel parking lot.
Later that year, the Bakersfield Critical Incident Review Board determined that all shots fired by Officers Rick Wimbish, Daniel Brewer, Jess Beagley, Ryan Vaughan and Chad Garrett in the killing of Harger and Ramirez were “within Department Policy”, and were “within State and Federal Guidelines.” All officers later returned to their full-duty positions.
“All the officers involved, they’re all justified - their actions were justified by the police or the sheriff,” shared Ramirez’s father, Jorge, “that’s crazy, that’s not right - that doesn’t bring peace to nobody. This is what we’re fighting for…nothing is going to change what happened, but we can help it from happening to other people.”
Saturday’s rally received much support from passers-by as honks flooded the busy intersection and some stopped to exchange words of solidarity. The rally included participation from the families of police slaying victims such as David Silva (Bakersfield), Ronnie Ledesma (Bakersfield), Jorge Ramirez (Bakersfield), John Oren Biggs (Bakersfield), Robert Ramirez (Oxnard), Manuel Angel Diaz (Anaheim), Marcel Ceja (Anaheim), Martin Angel Hernandez (Anaheim), Joe Whitehouse (Anaheim), Rigoberto Arceo (Cudahy), Ignacio Ochoa (Paramount), Michael Lee Nida II (Downey), Tony Francis (Bellflower), and Robert Villa (Tustin).
With a couple hours’ distance separating most families, meeting in person for the first time helped bring comfort and support, especially for families who have recently lost their loved ones at the hands of “law enforcement” officers. A reassuring warmth that only a firm handshake and a boundless hug could provide as they reminded each other that they are not alone in their struggle.
“I knew I had to be here,” shared Leticia Villa, whose son, Robert Villa, was recently downed by Tustin police officers last Monday. Villa’s mother explained that her 23-year-old son was shot and killed in front of her and her husband, Harvey.
Before concluding the rally on Saturday, families prepared their departure by exchanging words of encouragement for the many pending battles to endure and challenging days to come in their respective communities.
On Tuesday the 18th, fourteen people that were arrested during a demonstration last month over the acquittal of officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli for the fatal beating of Kelly Thomas are scheduled to appear in court. Of these “Fullerton 14,” as they are being recognized, 10 of these arrests were for people “refusing to follow police orders to disperse,” according to Fullerton Police Sergeant Jeff Stuart. Yet, witnesses confirmed that at least 5 of these “suspects” were “abducted” later that night through police’s fear-provoking “snatch-and-grab” tactics.
The Fullerton 14 are scheduled to appear at the Fullerton North Justice Center located in the 1274 North block of Berkeley, Ave at 8 a.m. Anyone who witnessed or was a victim of the “abductions” by police are encouraged to attend and share their testimonies.
Also on Tuesday the 18th, Robert Villa’s family and community supporters are scheduled to march to the City Council meeting in Tustin. Villa has been the most recent death by police fire in Orange County having been shot and killed just last Monday.
People plan to meet at 5 p.m. in front of Villa’s memorial located in the Casa Cortez Apartment Homes in the 1412 block of Nisson Road from where they will then march to Tustin’s city hall located in the 300 block of Centennial Way in Tustin.