$13.2 Million awarded to Vincent Valenzuela Family – Will Spitzer Prosecute the Killer Cops?


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Momentous news!  The family of Vincent Valenzuela, murdered by Anaheim cops in 2016, has just had a great victory in their civil rights suit:  On Monday the jury ruled that Officers Daniel Wolfe, Woojin Jun, and Daniel Gonzalez violated the homeless man’s civil rights, and just now (Wednesday afternoon) Vincent’s son and daughter were awarded a RECORD $13.2 MILLION for this civil rights violation.

$13.2 MILLION – finally an amount that the taxpayers of Anaheim might notice, that might lead to a LITTLE more accountability and changes in policy for the Anaheim Police Department.

Vincent’s family and lawyers after court victory. Vincent’s dad second from left, son third, daughter fifth, aunt Marie on right. Before his dad’s murder, 8-year old Vincent Jr was a “junior cadet” with the APD.

To refresh your memory – on the morning of July 2, 2016, Officers Daniel Wolfe and Woojin Jun, responding to a lady’s complaint that someone was following her home, surprised Vincent while he was doing his laundry in a west Anaheim laundromat, thinking he might be the guy.  (They were wrong.)  Startled and scared by the rough officers who shouted that he was under arrest without explaining why, Vincent (who suffered PTSD from a rough childhood with an abusive stepfather) attempted to escape, leading to a 11-minute struggle memorialized on the two cops’ bodycams.  (A supervising officer Daniel Gonzalez showed up to oversee the end of the struggle.)

This struggle left Vincent in a coma, and he died eight days later, almost exactly five years after the startlingly similar Fullerton killing of Kelly Thomas.  For an entire year the public and the family believed that the cause of death was Woojin Ju’s repeated tasing of Vincent in the heart;  not until (then-)DA Tony Rackauckas’ report came out in 2017 did we and they learn that it was actually the improper overuse of the carotid hold by both Jun and Daniel Wolfe that deprived Vincent’s brain of oxygen and killed him.

Rackauckas NEVER found cops to blame for anything EVER (with the exception of Kelly Thomas, which he insisted on personally prosecuting, incompetently.)  So of course T-Rack held that the cops’ zealous use of the chokehold was perfectly called-for and “within guidelines.”  Not so, found the LA jury this week:  three times choking out in such a short time is not only against APD guidelines (NO MORE THAN ONCE A DAY IS THE GUIDELINE!) but it can, and did, kill a man.

Oh you’ll love this maybe:  In what’s apparently a tradition, OVER FORTY UNIFORMED ANAHEIM COPS showed up to court on the verdict day, in an apparent unsuccessful effort to intimidate the jurors, leaving no room for the family to sit.  A couple of jurors expressed their disgust at this tactic, and – who knows? – maybe the move added a couple million to the award!

How much did Anaheim taxpayers pay for THIS attempt at intimidation? And how were over 40 Anaheim cops free in the middle of the day? Good time to commit a crime I guess.

Despite the ruling, Wolfe, Jun, and Gonzalez are still on the force and unpunished, even after causing a wrongful death and costing Anaheim 13.2 million dollars.  It’s up to our NEW DA Todd Spitzer to launch a criminal investigation of these three now that the family has prevailed against them in court.

Vincent’s aunt Marie, who pretty much raised him along with his other aunt Norma, has also been the most active in seeking justice for him (along with some other relatives, but Marie is the powerhouse.)  I clearly remember her shortly after the murder, over three years ago, in Vincent’s beloved Maxwell Park, vowing to get justice.  Now she’s joined the San Diego Racial Justice Coalition‘s campaign to BAN CHOKEHOLDS like the one that killed her nephew, named, appropriately, the #icantbreathe campaign.

More to come, as we learn more…

Meanwhile here’s the song I wrote for Vincent back in 2016, sung by the late Perry Van Dran, the first of my ten “Songs of the OC Homeless.”  I’ll have a better recording of this up soon, and it’ll be done at Dec. 21’s “Longest Night,” Anaheim Cemetery.

Hey … hey, hey…
My name is Vincent Valenzuela, from sunny Anaheim,
Where law enforcement acts like being homeless is a crime.
But I mind my own damn business and I never hurt a fly,
At most just nod and smile at all the people passing by.

Wo… I walk the streets till the sun goes down.
Wo… And I sleep in Maxwell Park.
And I want to see my son
‘Cause I miss him every day,
But oh, you tased my life away.

They locked me in a closet when I was just a little boy,
So four walls make me nervous now but freedom gives me joy.
And I’d slay the Chupacabra just for Vincent Junior’s sake,
‘Cause I love my little fam’ly like a fat kid loves his cake.

Wo… I walk the streets till the sun comes up.
Wo… And I sleep in Maxwell Park.
And I want to see my daughter
‘Cause I miss her every day,
But oh, you choked my life away.

 


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer 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.