January 12, 2013
POMONA - Between 30 and 50 police accountability activists, many of them friends and family of individuals murdered by various area police agencies, gathered on the busy corner of Holt and Garey to call for justice in the shooting death of Andres Avila, who was killed by Pomona police in October of 2011.
The Avila case is particularly egregious of abuse of authority, given the victim's prior history with the police department. On July 4, Avila was brutalized by four members of the Pomona police department (Patrick O'Malley, Joe Hernandez, Daniel Gomez, and an officer named Jung, according to supporters) who disrupted a family holiday party.
Avila filed a complaint against the officers, the results of which, if any, have never been publicly divulged.
Three months later, Avila was parked in an alley behind a motel in Pomona with a girlfriend. Pomona police approached the car in the early-morning encounter, at which point they claim that Avila "became violent," and officer Edgard Padilla shot him to death through the back windshield of the car. To this day the police have not given a reason for approaching the vehicle. Avila was unarmed.
The case was referred to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, which has not released the results of the investigation, if indeed there is one.
Since justice remains unserved and the offending officers remain on duty, Avila's family and supporters have continued to pressure city officials at council meetings and through periodic demonstrations such as today's.
At the noontime rally, supporters of Avila were joined by the families and supporters of Michael Nida III, murdered by Downey PD October 22, 2011. Nida was also unarmed. The right-libertarian media outlet reason.tv released a video documentary focusing on the use of heavy weaponry in the incident and warning of the "militarization of local police departments."
Also joining the protestwere supporters of Manuel Diaz, assassinated by Anaheim police July 21, 2012, and whose murder prompted widespread outcry and was met with a militarized police response that incorporated anti-insurgency tactics, according to leaked documents.
Members of Kelly's army, the moniker for the supporters of Kelly Thomas, beaten to death by Fullerton PD July 5, 2011, were also present, as were members of CopWatch IE, who have lately focused on the shooting death of the 18-year-old Ontario resident Lamon Haslip, who died December 28, 2012 at the hands of Moreno Valley PD. Haslip was handcuffed on the ground when he was shot.
Activists sported t-shirts bedecked with the images of their lost loved ones and jackets embroidered with "justice warrior." They distributed leaflets to pedestrians and motorists passing by. Many passersby stopped to share their own tales of police brutality and murder.
"They pulled my brother out of his wheelchair, tazed him, and stepped on the small of his back," said one pedestrian, referring to an 1989 incident involving the Pomona police department.
"Fuck pigs," said another man, the passenger in a car waiting at a red light. "Colton PD shot my homeboy 60 times! He was in a stolen car, but they still shouldn't have killed him." Members of the homeless community shared some of their police-related ordeals, as did activists who had been roughted up at anti-nazi and Occupy rallies.
The CopWatch IE blog, which monitors police violence in the Inland Empire, lists three incidents of police violence in Pomona, including a shooting, the breaking of an arm, and a shooting by a West Covina police officer. The site also accuses Pomona police of "subversion of democracy" for financing the anti-minority Measure T in the latest election. The measure, had it been approved by voters, would have diluted the electoral power of majority-minority districts by returning the city to at-large elections.
Supporters of Avila indicated that they would return to the streets, and urged sympathizers to write to justice4andyavila at gmail.com or to like the Justice4Andy facebook page in order to learn of upcoming actions.
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