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Charles Garcia

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Desecrating the Memory of César Chávez

Posted: 06/10/2013 4:49 pm

In 1971, César Chávez moved his home and the headquarters of the United Farm Workers union from Delano to La Paz, a property encompassing 187 acres in the Tehachapi Mountains of eastern Kern County, California. Kern is the fifth-largest county in California with nearly 50 percent of its population of Mexican American descent. When he died in 1993, as was his wish, Chávez was laid to rest in La Paz.

On October 2012, President Barack Obama traveled to Kern County to establish the César E. Chávez National Monument to honor a leader determined to bring the concerns of Latinos to the forefront of the national political debate. Through his grassroots efforts to fight injustice in all its forms, Chávez became a national icon, inspiring political power through his slogan "Sí, se puede" ("Yes, we can.").

What would César Chávez say if he knew that in the city of Bakersfield, less than 30 minutes from La Paz, Latinos are being systematically terrorized by Kern County police? Why are the police doing this, and why do Americans know the names Trayvon Martin and Rodney King, yet are oblivious to the names José Lucero and David Sal Silva?

Next week begins the murder trial in the death of Martin, whose name and photograph in a hoodie are easily recognized by Americans. The public's familiarity with Trayvon came into the national consciousness when a number of high-profile African American citizens -- including Reverend Al Sharpton, Reverend Jesse Jackson, and President Barack Obama -- called for a full investigation.

King's beating by officers of the LAPD is another such incident that gained national prominence due to the media's release of a citizen's videotaped footage. There was a national outcry for a criminal conviction, and even former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley said at the time, "The men who beat Rodney King do not deserve to wear the uniform of the LAPD."

That brings us to José Lucero and David Sal Silva, two 33-year-old men living in Bakersfield. José and David's deaths resulted from the failure of leadership by Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, an absolute disgrace to all the good men and women who wear the law enforcement uniform.

On December 18, 2010, Kern County Sheriff deputies Ryan Greer, Jonathan Juden, Daniel Willis, and Angelos Gonzalez went to José Lucero's home, in response to repeated 911 calls from José claiming that a female friend was being assaulted in Lancaster.

José, a recovering drug addict who struggled with mental health issues, was living at the home of his elderly parents, Florencio and Lilia Lucero. Prior to that moment, reports indicated that he was on the road to recovery, but on that day he had relapsed. Witnesses testified that José appeared to be mentally unstable, either as the result of drug use or a prior head injury. The deputies decided to take José into custody for abuse of the 911 system.

Their arrest strategy was to pepper spray him, beat him with batons, and electrocute him with their Taser guns. The decedent's elderly parents were horrified as they witnessed the entire incident.

Pepper spray causes intense pain, involuntary closing of the eyes, considerable tearing, as well as temporary paralysis of the larynx, which causes subjects to lose their breath.

The Taser X26 used by the Kern County deputies deliver a 50,000-volt charge. It uses compressed nitrogen to propel a pair of "probes" -- aluminum darts tipped with stainless steel barbs connected to the X26 by insulated wires -- toward a person at a rate of more than 160 feet per second.

The manufacturer maintains that the full 50,000 volts do not enter the victim's body; rather, it claims the X26 only delivers a peak voltage of 1,200 volts into the body, and an average current of 2.1 milliamps for five seconds. As a comparison, the electric chair administers 2,450 volts at about five amps for 20 seconds.

When the deputies became violent, José hid behind his father for protection, but the police ordered Florencio Lucero to step away, making José an easy target for two of the deputies to shoot him with their Taser guns.

The impact is as powerful as it is swift. The electrical impulse from a Taser instantly overrides the victim's central nervous system, paralyzing the muscles and rendering the target limp and helpless. In addition, removal of the barbed probes requires hospitalization so that a doctor can remove the probes with a scalpel.

Medical experts report that just one five-second Taser jolt can set off irregular heart rhythms, leading to cardiac arrest. Individuals with mental problems, heart conditions, or abusing certain drugs have a higher risk of death. Once the steel barbs are lodged on the body, the officer can deliver continued electricity by pulling the device's trigger again.

The following video shows a dozen police officers in training being shot -- just once -- with a Taser gun during a training session. Note that the barbs did not enter their skin but pierced a vest on their back.

This training video shows the painful result of just one Taser blow, even when the victim is held in the protective grasp of two colleagues. For safety reasons, most police department policies recommend no more than four jolts with a Taser.

According to data collected by Amnesty International, at least 500 people in the United States have died since 2001 after being shocked with Tasers. In November 2007, the UN Committee Against Torture released a statement saying "use of Taser X26 weapons, provoking extreme pain, constitutes a form of torture, and... in certain cases, it could also cause death."

José Lucero, who was unarmed and could easily have been taken down by four police officers, was electrocuted with the Taser 29 times, within a six-minute period. 29 times. At five seconds per Taser, that is a total electrocution time of two minutes and 25 seconds! What kind of sick person would do that to another human being?

And if you think it couldn't possibly get worse, the police pummeled José mercilessly with their batons 33 times, which, coincidentally, is the number of times Rodney King was clubbed by the police.

The typical police baton is simply a steel pipe, the use of which can have lethal consequences. Like brass knuckles, it can crack your head open, break your bones, and cause permanent injury to your bodily organs. In the case of Rodney King, the bones holding his eye in its socket were broken, and he suffered eleven broken bones at the base of his skull.

These four men masquerading as law enforcement officers certainly have nothing on the most heinous torturers of our times. Not surprisingly, their actions are aided and abetted by Sheriff Youngblood's assurances that this "arrest" was handled in accordance with department policy.

To continue reading about Jose Lucero and what happened to David Silva, click here to see original story published in LatinoRebels.com.

 

Follow Charles Garcia on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@charlespgarcia

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