Recent protests by dozens of residents in Los Angeles County have so far failed to produce an indictment against two sheriff’s deputies who shot to death23-year-old Noel Aguilar, a suspect they were detaining in May 2014. So far, L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey has not filed criminal charges against L.A. Sheriff’s Deputies Albert Murad and Jose Ruiz.
Civil rights organizations added their voices to those of the attorneys for Aguilar's family who asked D.A. Lacey to reopen the case. Her office had previously rejected criminal charges against the deputies for Aguilar's death.
According to documents held by the district attorney’s office, Aguilar was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk along Long Beach Boulevard about 9:45 a.m. on May 26, 2014 when Deputies Albert Murad and Jose Ruiz tried to stop him, according to the district attorney's memo.
A recently-released video taken by a civilian bystander captured the moments in which Noel Aguilar and the two deputies were grappling on the driveway of an apartment complex in Long Beach. According to reports, Aguilar had been riding his bicycle on the side of the road when he was stopped by the police. He chose to run, with the two law officers in close pursuit on foot.
When the officers encountered Aguilar at the apartment complex, his attorney admitted that Aguilar resisted arrest. When the deputies attempted to cuff Aguilar, he was believed to be carrying a gun. It was then that one of the deputies shot at Aguilar but struck his partner instead. While he continued to struggle with the deputies, Aguilar said "I didn't shoot nobody," Aguilar insisted before one of the deputies shot him at point-blank range.
The video appears to show that the deputy who was shot had already taken Aguilar's gun before his partner fired the first shot. The injured deputy gave a similar account to investigators. In reaching a decision not to charge Deputies Murad and Ruiz, the Los Angeles county D.A.’s office also reviewed a bystander’s video that is different from the one they released recently. The more recent video was filmed from the other side of a metal fence and begins by showing Aguilar face down on the ground and the deputies on top of him, trying to wrestle him into handcuffs.
"Is it a gun?" Ruiz asked as he bent over Aguilar.
"It's a gun! It's a gun!" Murad confirmed before cursing at Aguilar and telling him to stop moving. Murad could then be seen taking something from Aguilar and tucking it in his waistband. When the deputies were seeking to handcuff Aguilar, he suddenly broke fee and nearly stood upright. Ruiz fired a single round a Aguilar, but ironically hit Murad in the abdomen instead.
Murad screams, "I've been shot!"
"Where's the gun?" Ruiz asked as the two deputies struggled with Aguilar. "I don't have any," Aguilar replied. Meanwhile, Murad took a gun from his waistband and placed it on the ground. Aguilar insisted several times that he did not shoot anyone. "C'mon, man, why you pulling a gun on me?" Aguilar is heard to say just before Ruiz shot him once in the leg.
Deputy Murad then unholstered his pistol and shot Aguilar three times in the back. He told investigators that he believed Ruiz say "Gun!," thus prompting Aguilar to shoot, thinking that Aguilar had a second gun or had taken Ruiz’s service weapon.
Aguilar’s mother, Elvia Aguilar, joined about 100 protesters who marched to the Compton Station of the Sheriff’s department in Long Beach. She called for justice to be meted out to those responsible for her son’s death. Two persons were arrested at the protest for throwing bottles, while the rest peacefully exercised their First Amendment rights. ‘We Charge Genocide L.A.’ and the ‘Peoples Power Assemblies’ are two of the advocacy groups that organized the protests.
Raul Reyes, an attorney and contributor to USA Today wrote that accusations against police for crimes committed against Latinos does not appear to resonate with the public at large. “One reason that the killings of Latinos by police do not resonate with the public is that they do not fit into the usual black/white narrative of police brutality. Latinos (there are 54 million in America) have been here just as long as any other racial or ethnic group -- in many cases, longer -- but the mainstream media is still not adept at covering the community."
Lamenting that the Latino community does not have a movement similar to Black Lives Matter or spokesmen such as Al Sharpton, Reyes concluded his article by saying “All Americans should demand the highest level of professionalism and accountability from law enforcement. To honor our values of democracy and equality, Latino lives must matter.”
According to the L.A. Times, Latinos are a large and visible part of Southern California law enforcement. Within the Los Angeles Police Department, 45% of its officers are Latino, while Blacks make up about 11 percent. And in the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, Latinos represent 43% of the ranks.