Santa Ana Residents and Activists to Speak Against Police Brutality and Repression at City Council Meeting
When: Monday, March 3, 2003, at 6:00 PM
Where: Santa Ana City Hall, 22 Civic Center Plaza, Santa Ana, in Council Chambers
On January 27, 2003, a Santa Ana police officer shot 17-year-old Elmer Bustos to death, as he attempted to flee, on foot, from police. According to an article that appeared in the Orange County Register on January 28, 2003, the shooting occurred a block from Willard Intermediate School, as school children were walking home through a residential area at 1:50 P.M. Despite the presence of several bystanders, the officer shot Elmer in the chest because he feared for his life, police Sgt. Baltazar de la Riva said. Police claim Elmer pulled out a gun, and fired a single shot at the officer, but several witnesses refute that claim. Witnesses contend that Elmer Bustos was unarmed, and the only shots fired were shots from the officer.
Observers of the incident stated that an ambulance rapidly arrived at the scene to pick up a 15-year-old bystander who had been shot in the leg by the officer. However, Elmer, who had been shot in the back, was left to bleed to death on the pavement for thirty minutes before an ambulance arrived for him. By then, witnesses said he had already vomited a substantial amount of blood.
According to Elmer’s mother, the officers refused to provide her with details about the situation when she arrived at the scene of the shooting. She also alleged that officers refused to inform her where the ambulance had taken her son. She had to drive to three hospitals to locate her dying son, without any assistance or cooperation from the officers. Police response and reaction to this incident demonstrated incompetence, indifference, and poor judgement. This situation should have been handled with respect, sensitivity, and professionalism, but unfortunately, Elmer and his family were treated like second-class citizens. Elmer’s parents are currently seeking legal counsel, and would like for justice to be served on behalf of their son. Friends, family, concerned community members, and local activists will speak at the Santa Ana City Council meeting tomorrow, to demand justice for Elmer Bustos, and that their elected representatives address the issue of excessive use of police force in their community.
At the last City Council meeting, several activists and community members that showed up to speak about Elmer Bustos’ case were greeted by heavy police presence, and officers in riot gear. Police questioned some individuals for “suspected anarchist” group affiliations. Officers also told several mothers who attempted to attend the meeting with babies in strollers that they would be arrested if their children cried during the meeting. One local activist, Matt Martinez, of Santa Ana, was detained by police officers after he left the meeting for walking with an unlicensed bike. According to police, he was taken into custody because he did not have proper identification at the time of his arrest. He was fined, and has a court date pending next month. Police Chief Walters claimed that all community members who wanted to speak to the City Council were allowed to do so, but several people present at the meeting stated otherwise. The issue of police repression and harassment of community members and activists will also be addressed at tomorrow’s meeting.