A few dozen friends and family members gathered for a vigil on Sunday in memory of 34-year-old, Rigoberto Arceo, who was fatally gunned down by Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputies exactly one year ago. What is usually held as a day of remembrance and tribute for mothers and their influence in different parts of the world, is now a time of mourning for many Southern California families who have lost their loved ones to police fire.
On May 11th of last year, Rigoberto and his family were gathered at his and his fiancé’s home to celebrate mother’s day. Later that night, “Rigo” and his sister, Maria, were pulled over by deputies. The Sheriff’s statement on the accounts that led to Rigo’s shooting are then described as misleading by Arceo’s family.
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.”
Rigo’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.
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, last year.
Since Rigo’s death, Yoana, along with their two sons Christopher, 11, and Nathan, 6, have been committed to demanding answers and accountability on behalf of the Sheriff’s department for the death of their loved one.
During Sunday’s vigil, Yoana was accompanied by friends and family at the site where Rigo was gunned down by deputies.
“It’s been a year, but to us it feels like just yesterday,” shared Yoana, “We lived three houses down, so when this happened, I had to pack up my boys and leave like we did something wrong. I had to move my sons out of their comfort zone because somebody decided to shoot Rigo with no reason.”
“We’re on the right path, we get reminded every day that we belong together,” explained Damion Ramirez, whose best friend Michael Lee Nida II was fatally gunned down with a MP5 submachine gun by Downey police in 2011, “This family that we have forged out of our pain and suffering is going to be what helps us to heal, helps us to survive, and helps us to succeed. The bottom line is the wall is falling guys - we just have to keep hammering at it.”
After sharing some words during the vigil, Arceo’s son, Christopher, directed the group to march to the nearby Florence Ave and Otis Ave intersection.
“This is how we celebrate Mother’s Day,” shared Chris Silva as he demonstrated alongside his mother, Merri Jean Silva. Merri’s other son, David Sal Silva, was brutally beaten to death by Kern County sheriff deputies, also in May of last year - just a few days before Arceo’s killing.
Silva’s fatal beating by sheriff deputies last year attracted 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 following Silva’s death, 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” was an “accident.”
Youngblood, who was quick to blame “the media” for causing ”hysteria” over Silva’s killing, 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.
Silva’s family was one of several other victims’ families present during Sunday’s action. These included the families of Andres Avila (26, Pomona, CA), Clinton Allen (25, Dallas, TX), Martin Angel Hernandez (21, Anaheim, CA), and Manuel Angel Diaz (25, Anaheim, CA).
This year, “Mother’s Day” has once again been witness to more victims of police bullets. Just the night before Arceo’s vigil, 59-year-old Jose Raul Herrera was shot and killed by Ontario police after officers were called for medical assistance for Herrera who had fainted earlier that night.
Friends and family held a demonstration at the Ontario police department also on Sunday.
A candlelight vigil in memory of Ignacio Ochoa, who was killed by deputies just a few days after Arceo, is scheduled to take place on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at his memorial site in the 7200 block of Richfield Street in the city of Paramount.