North Long Beach—In the mid-morning of Monday, May 26, 2014, Noel Aguilar was riding his bicycle north on Long Beach Boulevard when two Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) deputies saw him look in the direction of their marked patrol car before he turned onto East 69th Way. Sheriff deputies Albert Murad and Jose Ruiz pursued and detained Noel Aguilar, resulting in Noel's death, at age 23, and a gunshot injury to deputy Murad.
Official LASD and news media reports on Noel Aguilar's death have changed significantly in the twenty months since the young man was pulled over for the apparent crime of looking at his surroundings while riding bicycle.
"Deputy in stable condition after shootout that left transient dead," declared the Los Angeles Times, while the Orange County Register ran the headline, "Man who shot sheriff's deputy and died in shooting was known gang member," and listed items from Noel's criminal record.
The LASD news release of May 26, 2014 stated that a struggle had ensued after deputies contacted a male in his twenties: “During the struggle, the man attempted to take one of the deputy’s handgun away. This resulted in both deputies firing their duty weapon at the suspect, who was also armed with his own handgun." Later in the afternoon, the department tweeted, "Mon. 2pm. #LASD Deputy wounded in shooting with suspect is out of surgery and in stable condition. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers!"
Meanwhile, no one notified Noel's family of his demise. His handcuffed body was left to bleed out in an apartment complex courtyard while LASD denied emergency medical personnel access to the scene. His pregnant girlfriend and mother heard rumors from witnesses on the street, and received official confirmation from the evening news reports, which all repeated the LASD narrative that Noel was armed and had shot one of the law enforcement officers.
Ten days after the incident, the LASD modified their story, revealing in the Los Angeles Times that the injured deputy was shot by his partner's gun and "authorities are still trying to determine who fired the partner's gun during the struggle." The detail that an officer duty weapon was the one that injured Deputy Albert Murad in the abdomen was a significant change to the initial claim of a shootout with an armed suspect.
Contrary to the Sheriff's Department speculation, civilian witnesses from the apartment complex reported that Noel Aguilar was handcuffed at the time he was shot in the back, which would make it impossible for anyone other than the police officers to have fired their own duty weapons.
Ten months later, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office finally confirmed (in a report not released to the general public) what Deputy Ruiz should have admitted at the moment it happened: "Ruiz pointed his firearm in Aguilar's stomach and...fired a single round at Aguilar. The round missed Aguilar and struck Murad in the stomach." In other words, Deputy Ruiz shot his own partner, then neglected take responsibility, and joined his partner in killing innocent victim Aguilar.
The District Attorney's report of February 23, 2015 justified the fatal shooting of Noel Aguilar, after describing how Noel was facing the ground with the full weight of Deputy Ruiz on his back while he was shot, once by Deputy Ruiz and three times by Deputy Murad. A cell phone video recording examined in the report captured the position of all three people during the fatal shooting, beginning with Ruiz and Murad on top of a face-down Aguilar, striking his arm with a baton before handcuffing his left hand. After Deputy Ruiz shot Deputy Murad in the stomach, both fired shots that a postmortem examination determined entered the back of victim Aguilar's neck, left upper back, and mid upper back at a contact range that left soot around the entry wounds.
Reading the 11-page report is an exercise in cognitive dissonance, because none of the facts of the matter logically lead to the DA's conclusion that law enforcement officers were justified in executing a man at point blank range for the crime of riding a bicycle. No probable cause or reasonable suspicion of any crime were ever cited by either officer who participated in the May 26, 2014 murder of Noel Aguilar.
The Los Angeles Sheriff Department waged a campaign of lies to discredit police murder victim Noel Aguilar. He was called a gang member, a transient, and an armed threat to the lives of police officers, when in reality he was a father-to-be, riding his bicycle with earbuds on, prior to being assaulted and killed by LASD deputies.
The truth of the matter remained buried within the details of District Attorney Jackie Lacey's report, which nevertheless concluded, "Deputies Murad and Ruiz acted in lawful self-defense and defense of others when they used deadly force against Aguilar."
In December 2015, Aguilar's family's attorney received a second cell phone video recording from an anonymous witness to the LASD killing. Released to the public on December 18, 2015, the video revealed conclusively that Noel was face-down, under the control of both deputies, never reaching for either deputy's gun, when Deputy Ruiz shot Deputy Murad and then lied by omission to shift the blame to Aguilar. Aguilar was shot four times and then asphyxiated by Deputy Ruiz, who must not have wanted him to live to tell the truth about the officer-on-officer shooting. Noel Aguilar's final words from the second witness video were, "I don't have any [gun]," "I didn't shoot nobody," "C'mon, man, why you pulling a gun on me?" and "I'm dying."
Finally, nineteen months after Noel's death, headlines began to report the truth: "Los Angeles Deputy Shoots Partner, Blames Suspect; Both Kill Suspect in Retaliation," declared Photography Is Not A Crime.
The phrase #ImDying became a rallying cry for a rally organized by Noel's family, friends, and a coalition of grassroots organizations including the Young Survivors Legacy Network, which provides community support to the families of victims of police murder. More than 200 people gathered in the parking lot of Eddie's Liquor on Saturday, January 16, 2016 for a march that grew to 300 people by the time it reached the Compton station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
A banner on a fence facing the initial rally point at Eddie's Liquor on Artesia Blvd said, "RIP Noel & Jesse," in reference to the killing of Noel's childhood friend Jesse Delgadillo by officers of the Long Beach Police Department, just a few blocks away, a year prior to Noel's death. The killing of Noel Aguilar is rendered even more suspicious by the fact that Deputies Murad and Ruiz were out of their jurisdiction, which is Compton, when they stopped Aguilar in North Long Beach. Aguilar had confided in family that he was terrified of law enforcement officers, who had threatened that he would be the next to die after his friend Jesse.
Another large cardboard sign suggested, "Strong Communities Make Police Obsolete," accompanied by the slogan, "End Police Terror in Your Community Now," and the advice, "Form Police Accountability Groups In Your Area—Protect Your Neighbors from the Bullies with Badges and Guns. Learn Your Rights! Take Your Power Back."
Other signs put it more simply: "Police are the Dangerous Gang Around Here" and "The Police are Armed and Dangerous."
One man wearing a white leather jacket with the phrase "For Fuck Sake Stop Shooting People" on the back unfurled a colorful banner that said "Plant Ideas Not Guns" and began walking a circuit in the crosswalks of Artesia Blvd to display his message to passersby in cars.
Shortly before 2 PM on Saturday, the South Los Angeles chapter of Danza Azteca led a ceremony honoring Mother Nature. The colorful dance in the tradition of the native peoples of this region was accompanied by drumming and rattling seed pods and shells. After the opening ceremony, hundreds of people took to Artesia Blvd, occupying two full lanes of traffic to demonstrate against police brutality. The crowd included moms, children in strollers, school-age children marching with signs, independent media, and dozens of masked adults. Volunteer Brown Berets provided logistical support during the march by directing approaching vehicles to safely u-turn away from the crowd and attending to marchers in distress.
Signs carried by the members of the Young Survivors Legacy Network pleaded, "Justice for My Dad." Other popular messages included, "Jail Killer Cops," "Stop Killing the Unarmed—No More Police Conspiracy," and "Death By Cop! Justice for Noel Aguilar."
"Film the Police at All Times. Police Can't Be Trusted," said a sign carried by a young girl. A male riding in a pickup truck held aloft a sign declaring, "Dishonest Cops Murder Innocent People."
The families of other victims of #DeathByCop also joined Saturday's march. One sign asking for #Justice4Tyler revealed, "LBPD fired 45 bullets; 19 bullets hit Tyler; 3 were fatal," referring to the November 19, 2013 Long Beach Police Department murder of 19-year-old Tyler Woods.
The march traveled northbound on Long Beach Blvd, turning west on Compton Blvd to proceed toward Compton City Hall and the sheriff's station. At the intersection of Compton Blvd and Willowbrook Ave, marchers paused to occupy the roadway and railroad crossing for approximately 14 minutes. A Metro blue line train was unable to proceed through the intersection, while protestors posed with signs bearing Noel Aguilar's face and the message, "Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely."
The protest concluded outside the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department station on S Willowbrook Ave in Compton. The doors to the station were locked shut from the inside with a pair of handcuffs, while concerned citizens on the sidewalk requested access to file a complaint. People who lost loved ones to #DeathByCop spoke out about their grief, pain, and anger at the law enforcement officers who killed the fathers of their children.
Around 4:30 PM, the open mic portion of the rally was drowned out by the noise of a circling Sheriff's Department helicopter, and word spread that two people had been arrested on charges of vandalism. The crowd moved to the south side of the sheriff's station, where a dozen police cruisers occupied the street and officers donned riot helmets, "less lethal" rubber bullet shotguns, and tear gas weapons. The sheriff's deputies formed a skirmish line and forced nearby cars and news media vans to relocate from the area. Several people were trying to pick up friends from the march, but were forbidden from crossing the skirmish line. By 5:30 PM, all the protestors had dispersed from the immediate area. Those who did not depart on foot returned to the east side of the sheriff's station to wait for rides back the initial march rally point.
Even after the second cell phone video recording was released to the public, NBC4 Los Angeles continued to obfuscate the nature of the sheriff murder of Noel Aguilar, reporting in their coverage of Saturday's protest, "It's unclear who fired the shot that struck the deputy, but sheriff's officials allege Aguilar had tried to grab one of the deputies' guns." NBC4 is still "unclear" about who fired the shot that struck Deputy Murad, even though the Los Angeles DA released a report at the beginning of 2015 that clearly identified Deputy Ruiz as the shooter. NBC4 apparently did not view the video which shows Deputy Ruiz firing the initial shot, followed by both deputies firing at close range into Noel's torso and neck.
If you share the outrage of the hundreds who are protesting the Los Angeles Sheriff Department cover-up of the murder of Noel Aguilar, please call District Attorney Jackie Lacey's office at (213) 974-3512 to demand that criminal charges be filed against Deputies Albert Murad and Jose Ruiz.
Deputy in stable condition after shootout that left transient dead
Los Angeles Times, 27 May 2014 http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-deputy-shot-stable-condition-20140527-story.html
Deputy was shot by partner's gun, not transient's, as first believed
Los Angeles Times, 6 June 2014 http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-sheriffs-deputy-shot-partners-gun-20140606-story.html
Man who shot sheriff's deputy and died in shooting was known gang member
Orange County Register, 27 May 2014 http://www.ocregister.com/articles/gang-615925-long-aguilar.html
Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, Judicial System Integrity Divison Review of the Fatal Shooting of Noel Aguilar by LASD Deputies Albert Murad and Jose Ruiz
February 23, 2015 http://witnessla.com/files/2016/01/OIS_Murad.pdf
Noel's family is keeping the struggle alive
March 23, 2015 http://socialistworker.org/2015/03/23/a-family-keeps-the-struggle-alive
[VIDEO] Los Angeles County Deputy Shooting of Noel Aguilar in Long Beach https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6I-Xg-Ga1a8
Los Angeles Deputy Shoots Partner, Blames Suspect; Both Kill Suspect in Retaliation
PINAC, 19 December 2015 https://photographyisnotacrime.com/2015/12/los-angeles-deputy-shoots-partner-blames-suspect-both-kill-suspect-in-retaliation/
LA Sheriff’s Investigators Probe That Troubling Long Beach Deputy-Involved Shooting Video
WitnessLA, 6 January 2016 http://witnessla.com/lasd/2016/admin/la-sheriffs-investigators-examine-that-troubling-long-beach-deputy-involved-shooting-video/
Dozens Protest Deputy-Involved Shooting That Left Man Dead in Long Beach
NBC4 Los Angeles, 16 January 2016 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/protest-noel-aguilar-deputy-involved-shooting-deadly-long-beach-365560941.html
Hundreds Attend Protest For Noel Aguilar In Long Beach
InLeague Press, 18 January 2016 http://www.inleaguepress.com/hundreds-attend-protest-for-noel-aguilar-the-people-stop-trains-own-police/
Justice for Noel Aguilar (Murdered by LA Sheriffs) March & Rally, January 16, 2016 https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLM8k9EawYV1akBsEjrklREJYElkfKzT9m
Young Survivors Legacy Support Network http://youngsurvivorsnetwork.com/
Youth Justice Coalition http://www.youth4justice.org/
Justice For Our Lives http://www.justiceforourlives.com/noel-aguilar.html