DA Requests Federal Investigation into Gutierrez Shooting

Former Supreme Justice Reynoso Named To Head Up Independent Civil Rights Commission

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It has been over four months since the April 30, 2009 shooting death of Luis Gutierrez at the hands of deputies from the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department in an encounter on Gum Avenue in Woodland as Mr. Gutierrez walked home from an appointment at the DMV.

Yesterday, the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office announced that they have completed their investigation and that the completed investigation will now be forwarded to the Office of the California Attorney General where it will be further analyzed and reviewed before any conclusions are announced. At this time, it is unknown how long this process will take for the Attorney General.

 

In news that both surprised and pleased many activists and civil rights advocates, the DA’s office also announced that the FBI has been requested and has agreed to conduct an independent investigation into the case.  This follows calls in August in Woodland for an independent federal investigation into the shooting.

Said Mr. Reisig in a release on Wednesday:

“In order to strengthen public confidence in the handling of this matter, I asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct its own investigation in this case. My invitation was accepted and the FBI began its own independent investigation some time ago. Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto concurred with the decision to request an FBI investigation as well.”

The news was greeted well by activists and civil rights advocates who have been pushing for such an investigation.

Retired California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso responded to the news at a press conference on the steps of the California Capitol in Sacramento.

“I applaud the DA for doing that,” he told a relatively small crowd of supporters and news reporters as he announced the formation of an Independent Civil Rights Commission that he will chair.

He continued:

“I feel that I have no doubt that when we finish our own report, we too will forward that, in fact I think that is one of the purposes of fact-finding is to be sure that we have the facts and we can call upon the state and federal justice departments to do what they’re supposed to do.  Nonetheless, we know that the DAs have to work closely with the police department.   Sometimes they’re a little bit constrained in terms of what they can say.   I’d be very interested in reading that report as soon as it goes public, but it does not at all restrain the value at citizens looking into what happened.”

The Commission will be an NGO according to sponsors of the event, and will take testimony directly from persons who have been subjected to racial profiling and gang injunctions.

According to the release,

“It’s purpose is to seek to improve the administration of justice: by improving police-community relations for safer neighborhoods in a spirit of cooperation, and by providing input for clearer, more understandable procedures for the Sheriff’s and DA’s Offices.”

Justice Reynoso told the crowd that the immediate motivation of this group was the killing of Luis Guitierrez.

“The purpose principally will be fact-finding.  The immediate motivation is the killing of a young man that we’ve all read about in Woodland by three un-uniformed officers apparently part of a task force that deals with gangs in that community.  Sad to say, the announcements from officials following that killing have often times been contradictory, have often times not been very fulfilling to the families and the loved ones of the deceased.”

Justice Reynoso has a long and esteemed career as an organizer and a civil rights attorney before being named to the California Supreme Court by Governor Jerry Brown.

“I’ve been in this business for just a little bit over 50 years.  I’m influenced in terms of accepting this assignment by the fact that I served on the US Commission for Civil Rights for twelve years and I have seen the value that is contained from independent citizens looking into a situation without the pressures that government officials have.”

President Clinton awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor and joined the faculty at King Hall at UC Davis in 2001.

One of the organizers was Art Apodaca, who said this commission has been a long time in the making.

“I have been working as a volunteer, we had talked about a commission when we helped the women in the fields in 2005 when they were beating the workers, at that time we had discussed a commission.”

When the recent killing occurred, he said they approached Justice Reynoso and asked him to chair the commission.

Justice Reynoso told the Vanguard that he had been approached by a number of folks and had agreed to chair as long as there would be a good amount of volunteers willing to serve and perform many of the takes.

“I mentioned to them I just didn’t have that much time to chair the commission – I said sure I’ll chair it, as long as we have volunteers to be doing the interviewing, etc.  I was assured that in fact that was going to happen.”

Justice Reynoso said,

“as I read about happened, it reminded of me of other issues that had come to our mind when I was with the US Commission on Civil Rights.  Somehow these issues don’t go away.  They come up in different ways and this was a pretty outrageous situation where a police officer not in uniform approached folk.”

Justice Reynoso said that they do not expect this to be a fast process.

“The hearings I hope the first one will be within a month.  But I think we have far more interest in finding out what the facts are rather than being fast with this commission.  It may be that we won’t even find out until the lawsuit is final whether officials can be questioned under oath.  I understand no lawsuit has been filed yet.  This is a serious civil rights matter but I’m certain I can find some of the civil rights lawyers to take this action.  One way or another we’re going to try to find out what happened.”

The formation of such a commission is undoubted going to create an air of distrust from many involved in the process.  Justice Reynoso was asked whether he was concerned if they could get buy-in from law enforcement.

“That’s a concern actually, because we will no doubt ask some folk who are in the field to be part of the commission.  I will encourage law enforcement to get involved, they might not want to do that, but if they don’t we will still proceed.  If they do, so much the better.”

He pointed out that many of these matters have a way of becoming partisan even though they do not start out that way.  He believes that police just as often can be victims in the process and told a story of young officers who were not properly trained or supervised taking the fall in situations that arose during his twelves years of work on the Civil Rights Commission.

cruz_3_with_gutierrez

From his perspective this is about finding out what happened, not scapegoating anyone:

“At least my point is that we’re not trying to scapegoat anyone, we’re asking the question, why did it happen, in this case it’s particularly egregious in that we happened and we can make suggestions as to how it can be prevented in the future.  That’s going to be our focus.”

Art Apodaca believes that this group will have the strongest authority, “moral authority.”

“Citizens will come before that commission, so what it has in its hands both orally and in writing is not second hand information, it comes directly from the individual to the commission.  The idea of producing a white paper at the end of it all is so that what was found by the commission, analyzed , studied, recommendations those are the things that will be forwarded to the federal and state level.”

According to him, they hope to conduct most of these hearings in public, but they are mindful that some of the issues are sensitive and that people may be reluctant to come forward in public.

In the meantime, District Attorney Jeff Reisig told the Sacramento Bee on Wednesday:

“We’re absolutely committed to transparency in this process as much as the law allows.  I invite review by any and all agencies in the system.”

DA Reising declined to comment on the activities of Justice Reynoso’s group, citing a lack of information.

There is little doubt that without the consistent pressure from citizens, that the District Attorney’s office would not be forwarding this case to the FBI for review.  This can only be viewed as a very positive step in right direction for an otherwise very tragic event.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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18 Comments

  1. Whats the truth?

    It is a joke to say you are going to find out anything with a group of one sided, opinionated people who have no authority to call in anybody or to subpoena anything. The Justice thinks he is going to find out something different than the other 3 separate investigations? Obviously they are only looking for money. It will never stop, not even after the FBI comes back with a report that is exactly the same as the DA. They will not be satisfied with that either.

    Just a very small group of extreme liberals. The conservatives have them too, but they are right wing nuts. When you are liberals you are just civil rights activists.

  2. Need explanation

    DPD, what is NGO? By the way, hope you are feeling better.

    I suspect Reisig made this decision to assuage concerns in regard to the negative publicity that has been generaged about him of late. Nevertheless, it was the right thing to do, no matter what his motivation.

    What I hope comes out of the commission is a recognition that it is not appropriate for undercover cops dressed in gang paraphenalia to stop private citizens minding their own business. It is a scenario that will be likely to precipitate a confrontation for obvious reasons – the suspect may not understand he/she is being stopped by law enforcement. It will take a higher authority, on recommendation of a fact-finding committee, to insist police procedure change, and forbid undercover cops from making random street stops out of uniform.

  3. ricardo flores magon

    I wish this citizen’s commission good luck. The only authority it has is moral; however one of the leaders (not Reynoso) has no credibility in Woodland. Risig has asked the FBI to conduct an independent investigation (he listen to Woodland community leaders) and did the right thing. Lets wait for the state and federal government and the community civil rights commission to do their jobs.

  4. C. Rodriguez

    The Call for the FBI is a direct result of the grass root leadership in Woodland. Art Apodaca, Cruz Reynoso and others… have undoubtedly influenced Woodland for the better.

    I’m glad these new leaders in Woodland are finally doing work rather than simply being opinionated from behind a desk.

    In response to the previous comment. I think all the people involved in bringing this have legitimacy with the people of Woodland–maybe not with Ed Prieto and Co. Go anywhere in Woodland, any local shop or Mexican restaurant… they know who Art Apodaca is and they know who the leaders are.

  5. Homeless in Woodland

    So, from what I read here the Sheriff’s Office is corrupt, the DA and the DA’s Office cannot be trusted and the Woodland Police Department is corrupt. Have is missed anybody? How about the Davis Police Department ? How about the California Attorney General’s Office? If this was Mexico, or some other far off country, I would understand all this distrust, but this is the United States, after all. If we can’t trust our local law enforcement agencies to perform an internal investigation into an officer involved shooting we are in serious trouble.

  6. the whistles go woo-woo

    Yo, homeless in woodpile…Remember the DOJ purge by the Shrub Administration? Law enforcement is politics, just like everything else. Especially for a DA who is elected. Meanwhile, Rexbag will continue to bluster and pule about how this poor DA is being railroaded, and Reiscrote will lift weights at the gym and grunt, “Injuction, two, three, injuction, two, three…”

  7. Sorry to See Civility Go

    I hope DPD can keep this blog from sinking into the disrepute it appears to be heading for. Just the other day he decided to leave up a post/comment in which the writer called the DA’s wife a San Francisco prostitute, or words to that effect. Then tonight I see more malicious and childish name-calling left on the blog when “…whistles…” disparaged Supervisor Rexroad by bastardizing his name, combining it with douche-bag (or maybe scum-bag, or something even more profane) and doing that same to the DA by combining his name with scrote (an abbreviated and derogatory term for scrotum).

    Shameful items to be posted in the first-place. But DPD professes to have a credible and responsible media source. Continuing to violate his own rule of, “Any posts that use profanity or engage in name-calling or other potentially slanderous attacks will be subject to deletion,” will cast the Vanguard’s reputation into the gutter and DPD’s assertion of professional standing will be hollow words. I, for one, will cease to come to this site if this sort of irresponsibility continues or is tacitly condoned by lack of sanction. I can find valid views in other forums where respect remains a virtue, even when the opinions differ.

  8. Charles Bronson

    Its certainly interesting that the FBI was brought in to the case as long as a month ago. Certainly the DA, Sheriff and Woodland PD have been holding their cards and letting the right information be developed so that when a report is issued it will be solid.

    I also am confused about why this gentleman, loaded on Meths, with a history of gang activity and who was known for his prowess with knifes and knife fighting is described as a “Farmerworker”. Heavy Spin. OJ Simpson was just a chief too! Stay Thirsty and Say hi to Mini-Me Bronson if he ever shows up.

  9. David M. Greenwald

    “Its certainly interesting that the FBI was brought in to the case as long as a month ago”

    We actually don’t know that that’s the case. The release said last month, that could have been August 31 for all we know, a little over a week ago.

  10. Hmmmmmmm...

    “disparaged Supervisor Rexroad by bastardizing his name, combining it with douche-bag (or maybe scum-bag, or something even more profane) and doing that same to the DA by combining his name with scrote (an abbreviated and derogatory term for scrotum).
    Shameful items to be posted in the first-place. But DPD professes to have a credible and responsible media source.”

    Had you not graphically explained the incivility, I would not have understood the references you gave to specific nasty words. You should have stopped short of giving such a full explanation. I agree such incivility needs to be removed – not sure why it hasn’t been, other than it is a massive job to do. It is one of the disadvantages to anonymous blogging, but most of us get that, and enjoy the reparte even if it occasionally devolves sometimes into the sewer. Most of us know enough to ignore that sort of nonsense – we know it for what it is – immature guttersniping.

  11. David M. Greenwald

    I almost never remove comments about public/ elected officials unless it gets into profanity. This stopped short of it. I removed the references to Reisig’s significant other/ wife after I recovered from a several day bout with an illness.

    I can read comments from my phone, but I cannot delete comments from my phone. Therefore, unless the issue persists or I remember later (doubtful) something is not going to be removed.

    I also generally err on the side of not removing material.

  12. Hmmmmmmm...

    DPD, thanks for the clarification in regard to removing inappropriate posts. Most of us get it that it is almost impossible to remove troll posts in a blog, and are adult enough to ignore such drivel and know it for what it is – stupid and irrelevant.

  13. No Politics

    Lets hope the situation gets cleaned up finally. We all know there are many good police and many good people in Woodland. Sometimes it takes a few people to stand up and say “ENOUGH.” Thanks to both Art Apodaca and Al Rojas for helping real people fight angainst real injustices, again.

  14. ricardo flores magon

    Who are you C. Rodriguez? Why hide your first name?

    You must have been out of the country for the last 10 years and do not know how A P screwed up several organizations and people in Woodland.

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