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Martinez Family to Hold Protest Against Downey Police Shooting of Their Unarmed Son

by k pomer Wednesday, Sep. 25, 2002 at 5:19 AM

Seven months ago a videotape captured Gonzalo Martinez's encounter with the Downey police. The tape ended as police fired with handguns and a machine gun, killing Martinez, 26, and spraying shots through a residential neighborhood. Martinez had his hands in the air and was unarmed. For the last seven months, the Martinez family has led protests outside Downey City Hall. The FBI and the Los Angeles County district attorney's office are investigating but no charges against any police officers have been filed.

Martinez Family to Hold Protest Against Downey Police Shooting of Their Unarmed Son

WHAT: March Against Downey Police Shooting

WHO: Martinez family and supporters

WHEN: 7:30 PM Tuesday, September 24th
(At 8:15 PM Protesters will enter Downey City Council meeting)

WHERE: Starts Outside Downey Police Department
10911 Brookshire Avenue, Downey, CA 90241

(Directions from LA I-5 FWY S/SANTA ANA/POMONA. Take the PARAMOUNT BLVD exit towards DOWNEY. Turn RIGHT onto DOWNEY AVE. Turn LEFT onto 5TH ST. Turn RIGHT onto BROOKSHIRE AVE.)

WHO: Martinez family and supporters

BACKGROUND: Seven months ago a videotape captured Gonzalo Martinez's encounter with the Downey police. The tape ended as police fired with handguns and a machine gun, killing Martinez, 26, and spraying shots through a residential neighborhood. Martinez had his hands in the air and was unarmed.

For the last seven months, the Martinez family has led protests outside Downey City Hall. The FBI and the Los Angeles County district attorney's office are investigating but no charges against any police officers have been filed.

It was recently revealed that the Downey Police Depart have hired one of the largest public relations firms in the world, Hill and Knowlton, to represent them.

Hill and Knowlton is the same firm that mislead Congress 10 years ago at a hearing that was used to justify the bombing of Iraq. Hill and Knowlton represented a woman who testified she saw Iraqi soldiers throw Kuwaiti babies out of hospital incubators. But what Hill and Knowlton didn't say was that the 15-year-old girl identified as Nayirah was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador and that what she said wasn't true. She had left Kuwaiti long before the Iraqi soldiers arrived.

The Hill and Knowlton also represented Turkey known for its killing of its Kurds. And it represented Indonesia at the height of the killing of the Timorese.
***********************

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-downey28aug28.story

A Tale of Two Cities' Police Tapes

Protest: Parents of man killed by Downey police ask why Inglewood case got all the attention.

By NICHOLAS RICCARDI
TIMES STAFF WRITER

August 28 2002

Norma and Norberto Martinez say their son's name should be as well known as that of Donovan Jackson.

Jackson, a 16-year-old Inglewood boy, was slammed onto a police car and punched by an Inglewood police officer in July, eliciting public denunciations by a host of leaders, including that city's mayor and the U.S. attorney—and triggering a grand jury inquiry that resulted in criminal charges against two officers.

Gonzalo Martinez's encounter with police also was captured on videotape. It ended in a hail of gunfire as police fired with handguns and a machine gun, killing Martinez, 26, and spraying shots through a residential neighborhood. Martinez, who was unarmed, had led police on a chase and was shot as he emerged from his car.

Images of that shooting have been briefly aired here—and have generated outrage in Latin America—but Martinez's parents and activists say they cannot even get the attention of Downey City Hall, where the mayor says he has not watched the tape.

In documents, Downey police said Martinez, a suspected drunk driver who had tried to run over police, was making a "furtive movement" with one arm as he got out of his car. They decline to comment otherwise.

The images of Martinez's death, captured in a grisly videotape that shows the barrage of gunfire and then Martinez's convulsing body, have sparked only selective outrage. For the last six months, the dead man's family has led protests outside Downey City Hall. Images of the shooting were shown in their native Argentina. The FBI and the Los Angeles County district attorney's office are investigating.

On Tuesday night, the Downey City Council reversed itself and voted to allow the Friends of Gonzalo Committee to march in a protest Saturday. The council, which had denied a request for a parade permit, relented after the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California threatened to sue. A demonstration in April drew more than 100 marchers.

But the tape has otherwise escaped much notice in Southern California. In the days immediately after the shooting, some stations aired portions of the tape, Martinez's family said. The story then quickly died out, and later this summer was much overshadowed by the Inglewood incident.

That tape first aired in early July and within days had been critiqued by Inglewood's mayor, Roosevelt Dorn, as well as U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft. Local prosecutors took the case to the county grand jury, and produced indictments against two officers in less than three weeks. Those two Inglewood officers have been relieved of duty while that case moves forward.

In Downey, meanwhile, the officers involved in the Martinez shooting remain on regular duty.

Downey's mayor, Meredith Perkins, said he has seen the Inglewood videotape several times on television but has yet to watch the one of the shooting in his city.

While expressing sympathy for the Martinez family, Perkins said he wants to be able to make an unbiased decision after he gets reports from the FBI and district attorney. "Anyone who's involved should get a fair hearing," he said.

Downey officials would not provide the names of the officers who fired at Martinez. In Inglewood, the Police Department identified the officers involved within a day of the incident coming to public light.

The different reactions to the two cases anger local activists. "How many times have you seen that ... guy get put on that police car?" said Patricia Pareida, 21, of Paramount, referring to the Jackson videotape. "This guy died."

The city of Downey, declining comment, has hired the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton to deal with the shooting.

Police have previously offered a partial description of the events of early Feb. 15. According to police, a patrol officer tried to pull Martinez over in downtown Downey about 2 a.m., but Martinez fled onto the Golden State Freeway, then to the San Gabriel River Freeway, where he lost control and drove into an embankment.

As police approached the car on foot, Martinez backed his car toward them in an apparent attempt to run them over, according to official accounts. Police fired at him, then continued to give chase until Martinez's car crashed in a residential area.

Police ordered Martinez out of the car. As he exited, he raised his right arm but made what in a coroner's report is referred to as a "furtive" movement with his left arm. The officers opened fire with a wide range of weapons.

One used an MP-5, a machine gun that is modified to shoot three-burst rounds. It has only been fired once before by Downey police. Another officer fired nonlethal beanbag rounds from a shotgun, according to the coroner's document.

"This was like a visit from gunslingers in the Old West—they were just shooting," said Steve Lerman, an attorney representing Martinez's parents in their lawsuit against the city. "It's not like this guy was running through an alley firing at the cops. They were way outside the scope of what would be justifiable."

As police fired, a freelance cameraman was recording the action. His tape does not show the entire incident but it does picture the concluding moments.

It first shows two officers pointing handguns at Martinez's crashed car, while the driver remains inside. More patrol cars roll up. Then Martinez emerges from the car, facing the officers, his right hand up. The left side of his body is obscured by the car door.

Almost instantly, at least 14 shots sound and Martinez crumples. The next day, the Martinez family visited the scene and counted 34 chalk circles investigators had left to mark shell casings.

Norma Martinez, had trouble sleeping that morning and turned on the television about 5:30 a.m. She was only half-watching the clip of a police shooting in Downey, and thought little of it until later that morning, when her eldest son could not be found.

Norma Martinez hurried home and, with her family, began calling hospitals. In the background, the television was tuned to KVEA-TV Channel 52, a Spanish-language outlet in Los Angeles.

At that moment, the station played the tape again. This time, Norma Martinez saw the victim's face. She screamed. "That is the worst thing that happened to me," she said in an interview.

The local English-language television stations did some reports on the case, but the shooting kept playing and replaying on Spanish-language television.

The next day, the phone at the Martinezes' home began ringing at the crack of dawn as television stations in South America saw the footage and sought interviews. Stories in newspapers in Argentina—the home country of Norma and Norberto Martinez—compared the shooting to the infamous Rodney King beating.

Since the shooting, the Martinez family has repeatedly attempted to convince Downey officials to pay attention to their case.

They printed T-shirts emblazoned with Gonzalo Martinez's photo. They marched outside of Downey City Hall during council meetings and addressed the council regularly. Though they mustered about 100 demonstrators in April, other nights they can marshal only about a dozen. And comparisons with other, more publicized cases such as the Inglewood beating are often in their minds.

"Every day you hear on the TV about the case in Inglewood and how the mayor and the chief there took action right away," Michael Blakey, 17, told a stone-faced Downey City Council at a recent council meeting. "But our mayor and chief have done nothing."

Perkins, the city's mayor, said in an interview that he and his colleagues are waiting to see what the outside investigations reveal. But he said he thinks the two cases are different. "That film they have on the TV [of the Inglewood beating] is so right there," he said. The abuse "was right out in the open, you could see it," he added.

Evidence of the difference, Perkins said, is the reaction of the two cities. "Even though we have a large Spanish group in our city ... there really has not been an outcry from our community."

Martinez's family and supporters ascribe the different reactions to race. Gonzalo Martinez was Latino while Jackson is black.

Observers say there are other issues as well—beatings, even a brief one such as the Jackson incident, generally unfold over several minutes, while the tape of the Martinez shooting is over in seconds. And many television stations may shy away from repeatedly showing a graphic shooting like that of Gonzalo Martinez, said Julio Moran, head of the California Chicano News Media Assn.

But race can be a factor too, he said.

"The black community is more organized in terms of reacting to this kind of incident because they have a longer history" of dealing with issues of police brutality, Moran said. "The Latino community is more quiet. Our history is trying to deal with things behind the scenes."

The Martinez family pledges to keep the pressure on, even as they await the report from the district attorney's office. It is unclear how long that will take. Prosecutors are still reviewing a 2001 nonfatal shooting by Downey police.
###

September 19, 2002
on Democracy NOW!
To listen go to http://www.democracynow.org

Story: ANOTHER RODNEY KING?: SEVEN MONTHS AGO CALIFORNIA COPS WERE CAUGHT ON TAPE SHOOTING DOWN AN UNARMED LATINO MAN WHO HAD HIS HANDS IN THE AIR. WE EXAMINE THE CASE AND LOOK AT WHY IT IS ONLY NOW GETTING ATTENTION IN THE ENGLISH-LANGUAGE PRESS

First it was Rodney King. Then it was Donovan Jackson, the 16-year-old boy in Inglewood who was slammed onto a police car and punched. These are the most prominent incidents of videotaped police brutality in the Los Angeles area in recent years.

But there is another tape. It captures the police machine gunning down a 26-year-old man named Gonzalo Martinez. Gonzalo was unarmed. The video indicates he had his hands in the air when he was shot.

If you lived in Argentina you probably know this story. If you watch Spanish-language television in the U.S. you have probably seen the video. But unlike the Rodney King or Donovan Jackson beatings, the footage of Gonzalo Martinez has almost never been shown on national English-language television. The tape has been broadcast so infrequently that even the mayor of Downey California, where the incident took place, told the Los Angeles Times in August that he still hadn't seen the video.

And why the difference in coverage? Perhaps it is because the Downey police hired one of the largest public relations firms in the world, Hill and Knowlton, to represent them. Is this investigation about truth or spin?

Hill and Knowlton is the same firm that mislead Congress 10 years ago at a hearing that was used to justify the bombing of Iraq. Hill and Knowlton represented a woman who testified she saw Iraqi soldiers throw Kuwaiti babies out of hospital incubators. But what Hill and Knowlton didn't say was that the 15-year-old girl identified as Nayirah was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador and that what she said wasn't true. She had left Kuwaiti long before the Iraqi soldiers arrived.

By the way, Hill and Knowlton also represented Turkey known for its killing of its Kurds. And it represented Indonesia at the height of the killing of the Timorese.

Guests:

* Norma Martinez, mother of Gonzalo Martinez.
* Steve Lerman, attorney for Gonzalo Martinez.
* Steve Rendall, senior analyst with Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting.

Tape:

* Robert Alaniz, Downey, CA "Police Spokesperson," who works as a Vice President at PR firm Hill and Knowlton.

Related links:

* Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting- http://www.fair.org/

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