Kelly Phillips, Anaheim cop who killed Joel Acevedo, steps up his harassment of Joel’s mother.


Donna and Joey Acevedo in happier times.

One of the more reasonable ideas that’s been suggested – most recently by Renee Balenti at the last Anaheim Council meeting – regarding the various Anaheim police officers who have shot young Latino men in the back of their heads these past few years – if they’re indeed never going to be punished or fired – is to at least transfer them to a new beat, Anaheim Hills or something.

After all, the sight of these cops patrolling the same neighborhoods where they killed people is traumatic to the surviving relatives and friends, and at least two of these officers have routinely behaved in a taunting manner since their kills:

  • Officer Dan Hurtado, since being absolved by the DA of wrongdoing in last March’s execution of Martin Hernandez, has been strutting around the same Ponderosa neighborhood, boasting that “I ONLY shoot gangbangers,” “I shot ‘Tripps’,”  and (to another mother) “You’re lucky I didn’t shoot YOUR son in the head.”
  • Officer Kelly Phillips, known to be not only the shooter of Joel Acevedo last July but one of the five cops who pumped Caesar Cruz with bullets in 2009, continues to act like the cock of the walk in the Güinida neighborhood, taunting and harassing Joel’s grieving mother Donna.
  •  (Officer Nick “Buckshot” Bennalack, who killed  Manuel Diaz on Anna Drive the day before Acevedo’s death, as well as Bernie Villegas six months earlier – seems to have disappeared quietly.)

Kelly Phillips – these days, patrolling without a name tag.

Well, this idea – that cops who have killed be at least moved out of the neighborhoods where they killed, hopefully far away to the Hills – may get some new traction, after the events of Saturday night, May 18, on Güinida Lane.

FIRST – around 8pm, as Donna drove her two teenage kids through their neighborhood in her well-known SUV sporting the words “FTP:  Film the Police” on the back window, she was pulled over and ticketed by Kelly Phillips and his partner Officer Browning, for “impeding traffic.” 

Witnesses in the neighborhood – a neighborhood preternaturally aware of police activity – saw Phillips, on spotting Donna, speed dangerously in reverse down a dusky alley to get into a position to get ahead of Donna on the street, endangering neighborhood children.  Then, as she slowly drove past him, she looked out her car window asked “Why are you still here?  Why aren’t you working somewhere else?”  Phillips pulled a fast U-turn, flashed his lights and pulled her over, and his partner Browning stepped up to inform her that she was being ticketed for impeding traffic.  Meanwhile Phillips called for backup to witness and assist with this terrible security threat, and soon seven police cars were clogging up Güinida Lane  – talk about impeding traffic!  Soon multiple neighbors filed out of their homes to “Film The Police” – something you’d think the cops would welcome but they seem to hate!  (None of the videos look that good, or I’d share them, and they don’t show much misconduct – but then, that’s really the point of Filming The Police, isn’t it?)

Still, ticketing the police-filming, grieving mother wasn’t enough – the seven police cars then circled back through the alleys, passed by the memorial neighborhood kids had made for Joey, and the cops from one car pulled over to desecrate and vandalize it.  Remember, Donna had permission from the building owner to keep this “Yogi Memorial” there.   (“Yogi” was Joey’s nickname due to a baseball cap he used to wear.)  According to the child witnesses below – some of the same children who witnessed Joey’s killing ten months ago – these cops kicked over and broke parts of the memorial, and took away several “posters” and pictures of Joey – that’s VANDALISM and THEFT, marked by added malicious cruelty.  Here are the neighborhood girls (and later a boy) interviewed by investigator and ex-LA Ramparts cop Alex Salazar Sunday morning.  (Yes, we have the parents’ permission.)  Find them believable?  I do….

I think Donna should go to court and fight this ticket, go with a lot of witnesses and media, and use this as a catalyst to at least get Officers Phillips and Hurtado assigned elsewhere.

You might be wondering what’s going on with the investigation of Joel’s murder, and Donna’s case against the City.  Quick updates – she’s still waiting for the DA’s report, but given Tony Rackauckas’ record of believing cops’ stories no matter how farfetched, contradictory, or disputed by witnesses, and routinely granting the self-defense argument for the shooting of fleeing unarmed youths, she’s not really expecting much.  On her civil suit, she’s still awaiting a response from the City of Anaheim.  And the reason she’s filing a civil suit is not so much for the money as because that has to be done before she can file a criminal suit.

Donna at last Tuesday’s Gardenwalk Giveaway, Anaheim Council meeting. Picture by Gabriel San Roman.

Many of us have come to especially admire Donna for her fearlessness, her indestructible sense of humor, and the fact that she’s come to see her family tragedy in a larger social and political framework.  Here she is at the last Anaheim Council meeting, preparing to speak out against the $158 million Gardenwalk Giveaway – this is a couple months after being scolded by Councilwoman Gail Eastman that “YOU PEOPLE” just don’t understand that the City CAN’T AFFORD to provide the park spaces and community centers that Anaheim’s poor neighborhoods have been asking for for decades.

Within the next week or two, Donna will be organizing an Anaheim Copwatch in the Güinida neighborhood, with civil rights activists to inform people of their rights, and with our videographer Sinnah Back instructing people on the use of UStream – as long as you have a smart phone, the video you take goes straight to your account on the internet, and can’t be destroyed by your phone being confiscated!   Keep your eyes on this blog…

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, or 714-235-VERN.