4 Police Brutality Victims’ Families Share their Stories Before National Day of Protest

While police brutality is gaining national attention, the October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation will take place for its 17th year on Tuesday in nearly 50 cities across the country.

The protest was first organized in 1996, by a diverse coalition of groups and individuals who wanted to bring about resistance to police brutality on a national level.

Kathie Cheng, an organizer with the coalition, said that while national dialogue around police brutality declined after 9/11, there has since been a resurgence as more people are standing up and documentation has increased.

The coalition also works on the Stolen Lives Project, which monitors killings by law enforcement agents.

Cheng said the October 22 rally is important in reminding people that police are supposed to serve the people, not behave in a brutal fashion.

She said, “If there isn’t a very visible alternative to how people see police brutality, we’ll just accept that ‘Well, this is just what happens.’”

She added, “It’s also a platform for many families of those who have been killed by police to be able to have a voice. Very often in media they just go by the police report, and the victims’ names are just dragged through the mud. And so this is a chance for others to hear the truth about what’s going on.”

AlterNet spoke to four families whose loved ones were killed by police. The following are their stories:

Ernest Duenez

On June 8, 2011, Ernest Duenez, 34, was shot and killed by Manteca, CA police officer John Moody. Moody was waiting down the street for Duenez to pull into his driveway. When he saw Duenez’s truck, he followed him into his driveway where he yelled at Duenez to put his hands up and to drop a knife, despite the fact that no knife was visible. As soon as Duenez stepped out of the car, within four seconds, Moody fired 13 bullets, striking Duenez 11 times in his back, chest and head. Witnesses stated they saw the police give each other high fives while watching the dashboard camera (dash cam) video of the shooting.

At first, police stated that Duenez had a gun and that there was no dash cam video. But after months of fighting, the family was able to obtain the video, which does not show Duenez in possession of any weapon. A forensic team and other experts later confirmed that Duenez held no weapon whatsoever. Moody was given three days off, and then was promoted to a detective, now training officers. The Duenez family is pursuing a wrongful death civil suit and is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to open a federal investigation.

Duenez’s cousin, Christina Arechiga, said he was her best friend. “But he was best friends to a lot of people, he was one of those kinds of people,” she said. Arechiga said Ernest was “that laughter in our family.” He was previously incarcerated for a drug-related charge, but he had recovered and recently had a son, who was 11-months-old when he was killed. Arechiga said the family is helping Ernest’s wife raise the son, “who is a spitting image of Ernest and does all the funny and crazy things he did.”

Arechiga said, “This is my own life tragedy, I live that day everyday of my life since 2011. … We don’t know why this happened. All we know is try to make it better for us and everybody else that it happens to.”

More: Alternet