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Moreno Valley government breaks silence on Meniefield shooting

by mary shelton Thursday, Apr. 12, 2001 at 4:50 AM
chicalocaside@yahoo.com

It has been nearly a month since the shooting of Dante Meniefield by a Moreno Valley Police Department and the silence by city government was finally broken by Mayor Fleckinger at a city council meeting. But was it too little, too late?

After 30 days of silence from City Hall, Mayor Bonnie Fleckenger finally made a public statement at the city council meeting, when faced by six activists who spoke during public comment. But the message from her lips focused on putting the tragedy behind them and moving forward, rather than with dealing with problems in how the city does business.

Fleckenger in her statement, which also aired on cable television, addressed the issue of creating an independent police department for the city of Moreno Valley, an idea raised by Councilman William Batey in 1999, but said the city had nixed it, and would not reexamine the issue again at this time. She said it was not cost-effective for the newly incorporated city.

Activists also addressed the issue of authority given the chief of a department under contract with the Riverside Sheriff's Department. Richard Coz is a deputy captain, employee of that department who operates as a department head according to the contract. However, when pressed on key issues regarding the responsibilities of a police chief, he has stated that he can not perform those functions, that it is the job of the Sheriff's department. These include the reassignment of Officer Robert Marks, who was listed as being the officer that shot Meniefield in the face, inside an abandoned apartment on March 10. He later said of the citizen's comments, even those that defended him, to a press enterprise reporter: "Most of those people are from out of town. They won't be here to deal with the issues," though he doesn't specify what issues are involved with a city that is ready to put the incident behind them, heal and simply move on.

Earlier that day,the city held a "healing event" in the guise of a community fair, which was attended by Meniefield's family members, even as other relatives and community members stood by. About the shooting, Coz has said, to PE reporters: "Yes we had a terrible tragedy occur here but this marks an end to it. The kids here are not afraid of the police. Everybody likes us," A sweeping statement of a city where many people have complained about harassment of people in the apartment complexes near Edgmont, and where four other fatal officer involved shootings occurred in a span of 13 months, in a city of 155,000 people. Flinkinger who attended the festival had said: "This street fair is a great way to allow the community to heal. I hope we can move forward now," she said in a 4/11 PE article, her first public statement on the tragedy since it happened.

Yesterday, a representative from the Department of Justice, in a press conference that took place in San Bernardino, scene of another tragic shooting of an 18 year old woman, Ginenne Stover. He said that an investigation by the FBI and DOJ has begun regarding Meniefield and that a second investigation may be launched on behalf of Ruben Vega, who was shot to death in his own home by Moreno Valley Police officers, last Dec. 30.

Administrative and criminal investigations involving Robert Marks are ongoing. No investigation has been filed against the other officer, Dion Davis, despite reports from witnesses that he may have fired the fatal shot. Davis had been harassing and bullying residents of Edgemont for several months, several community activists have said.

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