Even as the police killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling continue to stir outrage over lethal police brutality and systemic racism, the death of five Latinos this week garnered little media fanfare.
Fermin Vincent Valenzuela, Vinson Ramos, Melissa Ventura, Anthony Nuñez, Pedro Villanueva and Raul Saavedra-Vargas were shot and killed by cops since Sunday, but only local media picked up the story.
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"We’re being targeted," Gloria Hernandez, an organizer against police brutality in Fresno, told teleSUR.
She has been compiling her own database of police killings in Fresno — she began with the San Joaquin Valley but the list got unwieldy — and has counted that from 2000 to 2014, over 80 percent of victims were Latino. One of the police officers killed five people without an indictment; many killed up to four. Hernandez said that she couldn't rely on media reports or support from nonprofits like the ACLU, so she went straight to the police for her numbers.
Fresno, a hub for migrant farm workers, is about half Latino. While Latino, Black and Asian activists are organizing solidarity events in the aftermath of the Dallas shooting, Hernandez said that international media only came to report on the police killing of two white people.
“The media never focused on Latinos,” she said. "We're not attractive — Latinos — right?"
Fermin Vincent Valenzuela died on Sunday in the West Anaheim Medical Center after being in a medically-induced coma since an officer used a stun gun on him July 2. Valenzuela, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder the week before, was reportedly following a women when officers showed up, beat him and Tased him, according to his family's attorney. He was a father of two.
After receiving a call for domestic abuse, three officers showed up at a Jack-in-the-Box in Bell, east of Los Angeles, on Thursday. Vinson Ramos was reportedly holding a folding knife, and when he refused to put it down, the officers opened fire. He was with his girlfriend and her son, reported KABC.
Melissa Ventura, a 24-year-old mother of three, was shot and killed by cops on Tuesday in Yuma, Arizona. Official accounts say she was holding a knife when they shot her and that they were called out for a case of domestic violence.
“She was the heart and soul of my family,” Ventura’s sister Tiffany told KYMA. “I don’t know what we are going to do without her, the only thing I can say is that her kids will know how much she loved them.”
The day before, police in San Jose, California were called to Anthony Nuñez’s house, who the police chief said was then described as suicidal. Nuñez reportedly left the house with a gun when police arrived, and after 14 minutes of police trying to convince him not to kill himself, they shot Nuñez instead. He was 18 years old.
Local media reported that neighbors denied he was armed and that no one was allowed to approach him to talk him out of suicide.
"Never in a million years would I think he would take his (own) life," his mother told the press. "There are other methods of taking someone down without shooting to kill ... I don't understand why it always has to be fatal."
Laurie Valdez, the partner of Antonio Guzman Lopez — shot in the back and killed by San Jose State University police in 2014 — told teleSUR that she met with Nuñez's family, who is outraged at police. The two shots came "like snipers" from the distance of three houses away, and officers did not attempt to perform CPR, call an ambulence or move Nuñez's body until 10 hours later, they told Valdez. A bullet even pierced their wall, right under the doorbell, as a permanent reminder of the murder.
In the official statement, though, "the police is always the victim," said Valdez.
Two Latinos were killed by police on Sunday: Pedro Villanueva from Fullerton, California and Raul Saavedra-Vargas from Reno, Nevada.
Villanueva, 19, was reportedly fleeing uniformed police in his car when undercover highway patrol officers shot at his moving vehicle—a tactic banned by major police departments.
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Raul Saavedra-Vargas was also fleeing a traffic stop when he almost drove through downtown’s Biggest Little City Wing Fest—a popular chicken-eating festival—and was shot dead. Police said that they opened fire when they saw him driving into the street festival and approaching a cop.
While statistics clearly show that Black people are disproportionately killed by police, few numbers exist for Latinos, who can occupy several demographic categories.
Of the estimates that do exist, Latino deaths are fairly proportional, except in some counties with a high concentration of Latinos: in Los Angeles County, 14 of the 23 people killed by police last year were Latino — who make up roughly half of the population — according to the Los Angeles Times.
In the Guardian's police shooting database The Counter, Latinos are the third most likely group to be killed by an officer, after Native Americans and Black people. The database only included two of the five Latinos killed this week.
Besides facing harsher police repression, Black people "are putting out their stories" and mobilizing their networks, said Carla Osorio, a community organizer in East Los Angeles. Still, media coverage of groups like Black Lives Matter, she said, has inspired Latinos to join in solidarity and draw attention to the ways they are targetted, too.
Saturday 4:52 p.m.: teleSUR added the death of Vinson Ramos, who was shot on Thursday.
Monday 5:19 p.m.: teleSUR added Fermin Vincent Valenzuela, who died on Sunday after a week of being in a medically induced coma.