Exactly ten years ago on Sunday, 23-year-old, David Viera, was fatally gunned down by two police officers in the city of El Monte, California.
On July 20th of 2004, Viera and a friend were pulled over around the “Five Points” region, near the Valley Blvd and Garvey Ave intersection. According to El Monte Police, Viera was pulled over for “fitting the description” of “suspects in a gang shooting.” Officials claim one of the men “refused to cooperate” and “reached under the seat,” prompting officers to open fire.
Viera’s family, however, described being constantly harassed by El Monte police prior to the shooting. They stated that officers Ralph Batres and Santos Hernandez unjustly “riddled the car with bullets.”
No weapons were ever recovered from the vehicle and both Viera and his friend were later exonerated as suspects from the “related” case.
Viera left behind three children, with another son, David, soon-to-be born.
Viera’s family has since maintained his memory alive and on Sunday, family and community supporters gathered at the intersection where David was killed to hold a ceremony in commemoration of his life.
While David’s family and mothers of other fatal police shooting victims shared their stories with the group, several El Monte police vehicles encircled the intersection, patrolling the nearby plaza parking lot, while a police helicopter hovered close by.
“I really appreciate every single one out here to support David,” shared Viera’s sister, “Everyone I’ve met, there’s a family member that this has happened to. This is the only way we could stop this is for all of us to come together in groups and support each other. We can’t do it alone; it takes a whole city - country to bring unity. We just want the killings to stop.”
Once the ceremony concluded, the group marched west towards the El Monte Police Department located in the nearby 11333 block of Valley Blvd. While en route to the civic center plaza, however, the march was halted by El Monte police officers that ordered participants off a Valley Blvd public crosswalk and onto the sidewalk, in order to avoid “blocking traffic.”
Several police vehicles then followed the march to its destination at the Civic Center Plaza a few blocks away. Just before arriving, Viera’s family was now met with a band of officers suited in riot gear that denied them entry to the “friendly El Monte” police station, forcing everyone off the station walkway.
Veronica Castro, a 44-year El Monte resident who helped unravel predatory towing practices by one of El Monte police’s contracted towing company earlier this year, even pointed out an official as one of the officers involved in the killing of 37-year-old Khoa Anh Le just over two years ago.
“That’s Khoa Anh Le’s killer!” she shouted.
Khoa Anh Le, who suffered from schizophrenia, was choked, tasered, and then beaten with a flashlight over twenty times by El Monte police in June of 2012.
Family states that police was called to their home following a family altercation. Officials claim that Le became involved in a “physical altercation” with responding officers. The family, however, has asserted that Khoa was calm and cooperative when officers arrived and explained that police harassed and taunted Le prior to the beating.
Le’s sister, Diane, even stated that police kicked her brother while he was “down on his knees.” Following the beating, Le was transferred to Greater El Monte Community Hospital where he was pronounced deceased later that night.
“If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t call for help,” shared Diane with local media following his death, “Because of my call, my brother is now gone.”
In December of 2013, a judge ordered the El Monte Police department to turn over the names and personnel records of the officers involved in the fatal beating of Le.
Officers Victor Ruiz and Jesus Rokas have been cleared of any “wrongdoing” by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.