48 years ago a Texas police officer killed a Hispanic boy playing Russian roulette on patrol

15 minutes. The Little Mexico community in Dallas (Texas) faces this Saturday one of the most painful anniversaries related to the brutality of the police against one of its members: the death of the child Santos Rodríguez, without having been able to erect a monument in honor of the victim 48 years after his death as a result of a Russian roulette.

On July 24, 1973, this Mexican immigrant settlement was shocked by the murder of 12-year-old Rodríguez at the hands of a police officer.

The incident began when 2 officers arrived in the neighborhood to investigate the theft of $ 8 from a vending machine at an area gas station.

Santos and his 13-year-old brother David, both residents of that community, were identified by agents as the main suspects and taken from their foster home at dawn. The officers did not present an arrest warrant to the custodian of the minors.

Brothers they were handcuffed and put inside a police car patrol.

Trying to obtain a confession, Officer Darrell Cain drew his revolver, removed the bullets, visually checked the weapon and – he later testified – saw no cartridges remaining in the cylinder. The Texas cop then began playing Russian roulette with the minors.

The officer pointed the gun at the head of Santos, who was in the front seat of the car, and pulled the trigger. But he did not get a confession. The children maintained that they were innocent and the agent decided to maintain the pressure.

Cain pulled the trigger again, but this time there was a detonation. The bullet went through Santos’s head, killing him instantly in front of his brother, who was in the back seat. Santos died handcuffed.

Insufficient conviction

The tragedy shocked the city and exposed the outrages of the police against the Mexican-American community. Four days after Santos’ death, protests were heard in Dallas City Hall. The resulting riots left at least 5 police officers injured.

Then-Dallas Police Chief Frank Dyson filed murder charges against Cain.

At the time of the crime, there were an estimated 80,000 Latinos in Dallas, Albert Valtierra, director of the Dallas Mexican American Historical League, told NPR radio station. Segregation in schools and jobs still existed in the city.

In October 1973, Cain was found guilty of murder and, despite requests from Justice, sentenced to just 5 years in prison by an all-white jury. He was released after serving only half his sentence.

The apology came 40 years late

For decades, neither the Rodríguez family nor the community received an apology, nor compensation. David, Santos’s brother, did not receive psychological support either.

It wasn’t until 2013, when Santos’ death marked 40 years, that then-Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings apologized.

“On behalf of the citizens of Dallas, on behalf of the Dallas City Council, on behalf of the Dallas Police Department, we sincerely apologize for the death of this man,” Rawlings said.

In these years, the efforts of organizers and activists have managed to establish the Santos Rodríguez Center in Pike Park. Precisely in that place, it is expected that next September a sculpture by the artist Seth Vandable will be installed in honor of the murdered child.

The work, about 1.8 meters high, represents the figure of Santos. On the left hand of the effigy the sculptor allowed the mother of the minor Bessie Rodríguez to put her imprint.

This Saturday, a caravan will depart from Pike Park to visit the boy’s grave.

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