9th Circuit deals Theresa Smith a Victory – Caesar Cruz killing will PROBABLY go to trial!

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Talk about PERSERVERENCE paying off.  Theresa Smith, the tireless mother of 2009 Anaheim police shooting victim Caesar Cruz, announced just this morning that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will (almost certainly) be reversing the DA’s ruling that the pumping of 15 bullets by five cops into this law-abiding 35-year old father of five as he sat in his car in a Walmart parking lot was somehow “justified.”  At least, at this point, the reversal is “98% certain,” after which Theresa can take the case to court, have an actual trial, and AT LEAST get some answers, if not justice, after four years of law enforcement stonewalling.

Theresa, as you probably know, has been protesting the Anaheim Police Department for four years now, stubbornly demanding answers as to how and why her son’s killing happened, visible every week with her signs and fellow grieving mothers.   At the time the DA ruled Caesar’s killing justifiable, after a short secret “investigation,” they didn’t have to tell the public or family members ANYTHING;  that policy was changed later but not retroactively, so Theresa hasn’t even had the meager, half-assed, eight-page DA reports other survivors have been handed. 

At the time Amber Stephens wrote about her on this blog, Theresa had been at it a year and a half, trying everyone’s patience, everyone who’d already moved on to other outrages and tragedies.  I guess FOUR YEARS is what it took.  (Amber’s story is still great reading, to get to know what Caesar was like – what a loss to his family and all of us.)

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (yes, the same Ninth Circuit that just recently dealt our useless DA Tony Rackauckas two OTHER body blows – ruling similarly on fellow 2009 victim Adolfo Sanchez AND ruling the Orange Varrio Cypress gang injunction unconstitutional – thank GOD for the 9th Circuit or we’d have NO justice around this joint) ruled that there were just too many “inconsistencies” in the Caesar Cruz case … between the cops’ stories and what’s known to be true.

Inconsistencies.  YA THINK?

What bulldog attorney Dick Herman referred to in court as the “death squad” assembled around Caesar’s car that afternoon, allegedly in response to a tip that “a parolee” was in that car and in possession of a gun.  The police, who we know had been harassing Caesar for months (though we don’t know why) knew perfectly well that Caesar was not a parolee.  His only brush with the law had been SEVEN YEARS EARLIER – for “drug possession with intent to sell” – and he had finished his PROBATION for that five years earlier.  (Probation being for lesser offenses than parole is.)

There was a gun found in the car, allegedly, but it’s not claimed that it was anywhere near him.  And WAS it his?  Was it registered to him?  Or was it planted by the cops, or by this mysterious, hostile tipster?  (These things happen.)  All things none of us know yet.  But nobody can see the sudden need for a firing squad in the situation.  A firing squad in a busy, Christmas-season afternoon Walmart parking lot!  A miracle nobody else was hurt.

Nobody has even brought up the word “gang” in association with Caesar Cruz;  he had never been known to hang with a gang, which is the usual excuse for trigger-happy cops and public indifference;  although his friends postulated that he was sometimes “profiled” for his shaved head and arm tattoos.

Interestingly, one of the five cops who pumped Caesar with fifteen bullets (two through the head, one through the heart) was Kelly Phillips (left), who later shot Joel Acevedo fatally, as well as at least one other young man non-fatally (Gerardo Pineda – but not for lack of trying!)  Another one of Caesar’s shooters was Officer Bruce Linn, who later went on to shoot and kill David Raya.  Death squad indeed.

At the time Amber wrote her story, DA Rackauckas was able to “boast” that “his office has never prosecuted a police officer for a shooting death during his 12 year tenure.”  Since then of course there’s been Kelly Thomas, which – caught on video as it was and publicized by Tony Bushala and Kelly’s father as it was – was IMPOSSIBLE for T-Rack to sweep under the rug.

One thing we hope to learn, even if real justice evades us, is how do these police choose their targets?  Their stories about how they really just had to shoot them in self-defense rarely add up.  And it seems like the ones they end up shooting in the back are generally harmless, but they’ve been harassing them for a while anyway.   While the big dangerous guys keep walking down the street unmolested.  Maybe a trial will give us some insight, at least, into the thinking behind these legal Death Squads.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.