On Friday a modest crowd of 100 people, many of them friends and family of Mr. Gutierrez gathered at the Woodland DMV. After a brief address by organizer Al Rojas and a few words by Jose Santos Gutierrez, the father of Luis, the crowd clan with candles and flashlights solemnly marched down Gum Avenue to the Highway 113 overpass where Mr. Gutierrez was pursued and shot. They stopped at the top to kneel in prayer and remembrance.
“This day today, at 2 o’clock today, was the end of the six month period [of the shooting death of Luis Gutierrez]. At this point today we still have not heard the results of the investigation by the Woodland Police Department. The Attorney General is reviewing the case that was submitted by the Woodland Police Department for review. We never asked for review, we asked for an independent investigation. We also asked the federal Attorney General’s office to conduct an investigation. Now the DA in Yolo County has indicated that he has called in the FBI. I believe like many of us believe, the only reason he’s called for the federal investigation is the pressure and the public outcry have said we want to know why.
What we want is justice. What we want is the truth—that’s what we want. If there was wrong doing, if they are culpable and bound to be guilty, if they killed or murdered Luis Gutierrez, then they should be prosecuted by the district attorney’s office.
Luis Gutierrez walked from here [the Woodland DMV office] at 2 o’clock in the afternoon after he passed his license and three sheriff’s deputies used extreme force and killed him and we want to know why. We believe that the family has the right to find out why as do all the families that have sons and daughters.”
Al Rojas then introduced the father of Luis Gutierrez who briefly addressed the crowd in Spanish for the first time. Senor Jose Santos Gutierrez told the crowd:
“Good evening, my name is Jose Santos Gutierrez. Luis Gutierrez is my son, assassinated by the police. I don’t do it for my son anymore, because I know he’s not going to come back. I believe I am doing it for all you, for all of your sons and daughters. That this never happens again and I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart and my family for being here tonight and support, so that we forget what happened, so it will never happen again. Gracias.”
The Vanguard spoke with Al Rojas and Eric Alfaro from the Yolo County Justice Coalition on Wednesday ahead of the event. (You listen to the full interview here)
Al Rojas spoke about the event on Friday.
“This event is a vigil, and it’s a march that will begin and congregate in the local DMV office in Woodland on Gum Avenue. We will proceed from there, walking the same steps that Luis Gutierrez walked over to the very spot where he was killed on the Gum Avenue overpass, just as you go over [highway] 113.
We’re hoping people will come out and show support. On the one hand, the next day is considered Halloween, but in Latin America on November 2nd there’s recognizing and memorializing, the Day of the Dead (dia de los muertos). In this case for the six month period to us is very key because it’s been six months we’ve heard nothing and there’s been nothing coming from any of the law enforcement agencies as it relates to the state Attorney General’s Office subject to the so-called review of that investigation.”
Al Rojas also gave an update on the Luis Gutierrez case:
We have been on hold so to speak. The District Attorney in Yolo County has reviewed the Woodland Police Department’s investigation, now has turned it over for the state Attorney General’s office for review. For us that’s something that we don’t accept because we feel that the state Attorney General should have, as we said from the very beginning, called for a complete investigation through his office. Since then we have now moved this into a federal jurisdiction. The bottom is that that federal jurisdiction now means that it’s the jurisdiction of the federal government. It turns out the District Attorney of Yolo County, after the outcry of the public and Yolo County residents for transparency to find out what really did happen, find out the truth, were now calling for an independent investigation through the US Attorney General’s Office.
Eric Alfaro addressed the question as to what was hoped to be accomplished through these investigation.
“There’s one main investigation that we want, as Rojas said, a civil rights investigation. What we want in this investigation is that we want to get to the answers of what happened that evening. I think up until now there has been explanation as to why this person was stopped in the first place. I know the sheriff’s department was quick to classify him as a gang member, and then later a Woodland Police Department investigation proved that was wrong. A gang taskforce unit stopped him and shot him. But it turned out he wasn’t a gang member.
The whole reason for having this is to get to the answers: why was he stopped and has this happened to other people.”
The question was posed for these men to respond to the charge that they were not seeking to know the truth so much as find the venue that would condemn the actions of the officers, that this was a search for a specific outcome.
Mr. Alfaro responded:
“I think that’s absurd. First of all, bringing the federal government in here, they are not working for the coalition. They’re the US Civil Rights division and they’re obviously going to rule objectively as to what happened. I think there are concerns that there’s a witch hunt out there for the law enforcement agencies in the county, but that’s not true. We want to know if something wrong was done. If nothing wrong was done, the only thing this is really going prove is that it will cement public confidence in law enforcement.”
To listen to the full interview, click here.
—David M. Greenwald reporting