Families Speak Out About Lives Stolen by Police—and Fighting to STOP the Outrages

April 13, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


A week before April 14, a powerful and inspiring speak-out and call to action against police murder took place at the UC Berkeley campus (see "From Families of Victims of Police Murder, Students & Young Revolutionaries: Heart-Rending Testimony, Powerful Calls to Act"). The following are from the testimonies of some of the family members at the event.


Laurie Valdez

On February 21, 2014 my son's life was changed forever. We've been sentenced to a lifetime of pure grief. Antonio, he was undocumented. It's been 14 months already, and we still don't have answers about what happened on that day. The university police officers shot him in the back twice.

They both had body cameras on. In truth, the transparency the government talks about with these body cameras—it doesn't mean shit. The two officers who killed Antonio had them on and we still haven't seen them. Transparency means now, not when they are good and ready or when they figure a way to cover it up. Antonio was a good person. Being undocumented should not have been a reason for him to die. I knew him better than anybody and he would never do what they said he did because he didn't want to get deported and never be able to see his son or my daughter who he raised since she was three. He loved them more than anything.

Laurie Valdez, Vickie Showman, Angela NaggieFrom left: Laurie Valdez, wife of Antonio Guzman Lopez, Vickie Showman, mother of Diana Showman, Angela Naggie, mother of O’Shaine Evans

That morning I was watching the news I heard that there had been a killing near San Jose State. I had just spoken to him and he was on the way to our house. I didn't know that the person that they had killed near San Jose State was Antonio. I was angry because he was supposed to be at my house a long time ago and he hadn't shown up. I was wondering what happened to him.  I wasn't told until 7 in the evening that I was told it was Antonio—and he was killed at 11 in the morning. When I asked the coroner's office if I could go see his body they said, "No, there was a crime being investigated." I said I need to know, my kids need to know, if it is him. My daughter doesn't want to believe that it is him. They kept telling me no. In my head I didn't want to believe it was him.

The following Tuesday I went to the San Jose Police Department to find out information and asked them, how do you know that it is Antonio? He said that they got confirmation from the scene that that is who it is. I said that there were video cameras. How come they are not showing the videos. He said it was being investigated. So I said when are we going to get it? He said when our investigation is over the District Attorney will do it and you'll get to see the videos. I asked how long did it take for them to get help to Antonio—this is before I found out that he was shot right through the heart from a lady at the mortuary. He never died upon arriving at the hospital like they said. He died right there. He fell face first on the ground in the middle of the street.

In the last minutes of his life he was sitting with neighbors off the campus. He was sitting on the lawn eating his lunch. He saw the cops roll up in their SUV. Antonio was always being harassed by them. He got up and said, "I'm going to get out of here before these cops start messing with me," and walked away. Neither one of the officers spoke Spanish so I don't know how in the hell they told him to stop. They said that he had a knife in his hand or a blade. Two witnesses came forward and told me they never saw Antonio with a knife in his hand. They didn't know where they got that from. If he had something it had to be in his backpack because he collected things that he found so it was a saw blade... When I spoke to these two witnesses who didn't know each other and saw things from different angles, they both said the same thing that Antonio fell face first and he was bleeding and the cops just looked at him and then they put him in handcuffs.

It hurts me. My daughter is haunted by this. She can't go one week without having dreams of her poppy coming to her at her school and smiling at her. We don't even have a gravesite for him because his body was sent back to where he was from. They don't want to be reminded of the life that was stolen because he was undocumented.

My son Josiah, he was only four. He's five now. He can't sleep with the light off.  When he was little he used to go to sleep in the dark—no problem. Every time he sees a cop he has a fear—both my kids. It hurts me because they don't need to fear those who are supposed to serve and protect them. My son asks me, "Why can't the cops just kill me so I can see my daddy? I just want to die and go to my real home with my dad." This is what my child has been sentenced to: a life of not knowing why he doesn't have a dad. He's been made fun of at his school by little kids. They say that he is weird because he is the only one who doesn't have a dad. They don't know that his dad was killed. He's not weird. He's hurting. He's going to get angry. He has emotions. But then the system will just say that he is a bad kid. They are going to try and make him a product of their system so they can put him in juvenile hall and lock him up, put him in prison later.

They are not going to have that with me. That's why I'm asking everyone to be out in the streets. Don't be afraid if you see a cop harassing someone. Love yourself, love humanity enough that the person comes out of that system alive. The cops are just people with job titles. Those job titles don't give them the right to take lives.

I have no answers for my son. A four-year-old had to see his father in a coffin. He asked, “Why is my father in a box? Mom, where are my dad's legs Are his legs broken? How come he won't wake up?" He's four. He doesn't understand. This is something I will have to deal with and I will do my best to make sure another family doesn't have to go through this. You can't even imagine the pain. I can't even breathe because I'm trying to help my kids physically and mentally while trying to get answers, the truth, and get some results.

The University police got off for two weeks. Two weeks paid vacation. They killed Antonio. They destroyed my children's lives. They need to be held accountable...

When my son cries out, I want my daddy back, why can't I have my daddy back, I have no answers. I wish I did. But what I can do is fight like hell to get the truth. Fight like hell to try to make change...

You might think our families are vindictive and bitter and that we want revenge. We don't want revenge. We want justice. We want accountability. …

As long as our leaders are allowing the police to do this and our people are doing nothing to stand up this is going to continue... We need to take over and we need to make the rules...

They are bullies with badges and this cannot happen no more. They need to be stripped of those badges and guns... So I'm asking you guys to get out there on the streets on April 14. Shut it down.


Vicky Showman

My daughter Diana was shot and killed by Santa Fe police on August 14, 2014. It will be eight months next week. We have had no information from the police. No information from the D.A. They are content to just let it be swept under the rug and they hope it will just go away. My daughter had bipolar disorder. She needed help. We were working so hard to get her help. And they killed her. They just killed her. We need to do something to stop this. The police need to be held responsible. My little girl had so much potential. She worked with autistic children. She worked with older people. She had compassion. She had kindness. She had a mental disorder as well but her life mattered. All lives matter.


Angela Naggie

Today marks six long months since my son was taken away by the SFPD. I'm still thinking in the back of my head that my son is going to come home. That he is going to turn his keys in the door. He's going to call to me "mommy, what are you cooking?" But it's never going to happen until we see each other in a different world.

My son's name was O'Shane Evans. We came here in 1992 from Jamaica. He was four years old when we came here—just a baby boy. He went to school and did the kind of things all kids do like sports and other stuff. He was preparing to be a professional boxer when his life was taken away too soon. He was only 26 years old.

Angela NaggieAngela Naggie, mother of O’Shaine Evans

Right now I'm out there fighting for justice. I'm not going to stop until the last breath is in my body because he was my baby. I have five kids but he was the youngest. His life was just taken away too soon. He was a son, he was a brother, he was an uncle he was a cousin, he was a nephew. He was close to everyone. I am just here today to say I am fighting for justice. And come April 14, I'm right out there shutting it down. If I can't get no justice these officers they can't have no peace. Like I told Chief Suhr in San Francisco. When it rains that's my son's blood washing down on San Francisco. And my son's blood is on his shoulders and I'm not going to stop until I get justice. And if I can't get no justice when I pass on then my children are going to pick it up and carry it on. I didn't come here from Jamaica for my son to be called a victim. He has a name from the day he was born. Now he is called a victim and I am sick and tired of hearing that name. We are not victims we have names. Tell them to call us by our names. Come April 14 shit it down.


Cyndi Mitchell

I am the sister of Mario Romero who was murdered by Vallejo police on September 2, 2012. He was sitting in front of our own house, minding his own business, like a lot of us do... My brother was attacked by Vallejo police officers Sean Kenney and Justin Joseph. He was fired at 40 times. He was shot 30 times. He was shot eight times through the palms of his hands. He was cut from his seat belt and his body was stolen from the scene of the crime. We didn't bury him until a month later because they were hiding his body for a month. Sean Kenney, one of the officers who shot my brother, killed two other people in 2012 in Vallejo, all within a five-months period. After he murdered my brother he planted a police-issue training weapon in my brother's car. When the "recovered" the weapon the only fingerprints on the gun were the officer's. The witnesses who saw this gun were denied.

Cyndi MitchellCyndi Mitchell, sister of Mario Romero

Immediately after, we began protesting and calling for justice because there is no other way to put it. There was no cause and effect. They say they "feared for their lives." You don't fear for your life in a situation where you are creating chaos. You don't fear for your life when you are the only one who has a weapon that can kill somebody. You don't fear for your life when you are terrorizing a community.  This officer claimed to have fear for his life but jumped on the hood of my brother’s car and repeatedly shot his gun after reloading. My brother kept saying, “Wait, we have our hands up.” I keep trying to figure out how in the process of shooting 40 bullets into an unarmed man, how the hell did they fear for their lives and when did they stop?... There is no way to put it other than that this is terrorism in our communities.

Since my brother was murdered I've been out there fighting. My family has been out there fighting. We've suffered a lot. We've had a lot taken from us for standing up and demanding justice. We have been illegally evicted. We've had our cars illegally towed. We've gone through all of these things just because we are standing up for justice. It's so sad that when you stand up against a crime that has been committed by police, they automatically assume that something is wrong with the people who are standing up.

There is this process: they murder them in the flesh and then they assassinate their character. That's what they did with my brother. They told the public that he was a parolee who was afraid of going back to prison, who jumped out of his car and pointed a fake gun at two officers with two real guns with real bullets and said, I'm not going back to prison. But he had never been on parole and never been to prison...

There were a lot of witnesses who saw what happened who were begging the police department, hey, we seen what happened. We know that the police came and they attacked. There was no reason why they had to stop and attack like they did.

We're fighting so hard to educate the public that if your loved one is murdered it does not have to be through any fault of their own. And when they are murdered your family becomes a target because you are standing up against an injustice. We've sacrificed everything just so we could tell Mario's story because he shouldn't have had to die like that. We’re fighting for change. We're out here stompin’ the ground. We're marching for miles. We are breaking our bodies because it is important to get our stories out. It is important for the world to know if the system is created to protect us why is it killing us?...

We've made complaints we've been to the district attorney's office, we've written letters to the Attorney General. We were told by the Solano County District Attorney's office that they didn't want to accept evidence that we had that proved it was a murder. They told us, "You have your attorneys and we have ours." When we told them that we weren't represented by an attorney and we were more interested in justice. They said again, "Well you have your attorneys and we have ours."...

We've found out that the man who killed my brother, Sean Kinney, has been promoted to detective and is in charge of investigating officer involved shootings. It's a repeated slap in the face. It's important for everyone to come out on April 14 to stand up, to fight for justice. This could happen to anyone. It doesn't matter who you are or what you are doing, if you get attacked by the police they will say that they feared for their lives and they will try to assassinate your character after they have killed you. They will attempt to cover up the crime and you will have to fight for justice. They will change their story repeatedly and in the end it still won't make sense because it is a lie...

People say you are trouble maker or you are disruptive but will you sit and allow your loved one to be murdered and not do anything? I won't. I don't consider that an option...

It's important for everyone to come out on April 14 and stand up. Tell the world enough is enough. It's time to stand up and the killing has got to stop.


Dionne Smith Downs

I am the mother of James Earl Rivera, Jr, 16 years old. My son was murdered July 22, 2010, the day before his 17th birthday. A total of 12 officers was out there, but they only gave us three officers, two Stockton police and the sheriff. They shot 48 times, 18 entered my son's body. He was shot with AR-15… This is what the AR-15 did to my son. That's why we are on board with this April 14. Mothers like me have been in the struggle almost 5 years. I have not received police reports, personal property, I have not received anything regarding the death of my son. I have been traveling city to city, state to state, trying to get support, trying to get out the information that I have gathered by investigating in the community and also being on the scene.

Dionne Smith Downs and Carey DownsDionne Smith Downs and Carey Downs with photo of James Rivera

Before he was murdered the last supper me and my son ate was McDonalds. That's the last time I touched my son, held my son, laughed with my son and hit him on the cheek. By 10 o'clock the next morning he was dead. I got a phone call from a young lady down the street from my home and she said, the officer had stopped your child. I am the mother of 14, and she didn't say which child. I didn't pay attention because all my older kids they all have their driver’s license, get a ticket and go on about their business. So I didn't respond to the phone call.

She called again this time in a voice that was like "get up!" I asked her where this was happening and she gave me a location. The next thing I heard was guns going off. But I thought it was fireworks because it was in July. I'm going down Stanfield. I got to the stop sign. I had a weird feeling but I didn't know what the feeling was. Then I seen people running, I seen cars flying. Once I get to the location I see officers, I see a whole bunch of activity going on. One of the officers had the yellow tape blocking everything off.

I finally got there and as I'm approaching people were saying, "That's your son." And I'm like, you don't know me because it wasn't my neighborhood. As I get closer I get out of my car. I'm still not clicking in that that's my baby right there. I got out of my vehicle and am asking questions. And they are saying, "The police did it, the police did it." I still couldn't see. I saw them slapping him. Normally if you see your mom, you'll say "help" or something. My son never said a word.

One of the men he knew was out there and he confirmed to me that it was James. They said I did a scream—I don't remember. As soon as they saw that I was there they hurried and put him in an ambulance and drove him away. I followed the ambulance and I got two police officers behind me because I didn't stop. They were telling me to pull over. I'm not pulling over. I called 911 on the police. At that time I didn't know that the police were the ones who did the damage.

I get to the hospital and I'm on the phone shaking and I called my momma and I said, "Please, please, help me. Something is bad." Then I called my husband. All this time I was telling them he had Medi-Cal, I was telling them his blood type. I'm giving them everything I could give them.

They put the dogs on me. They did everything that they could to keep me away. The only thing that I could do is fall on the ground and pray. I felt helpless and I cried, and I cried, and I cried. Before I got the news that he had passed, they had already announced it on the news and my family is looking for me. I still didn't know that he was shot by the police. They never told me my son had expired. I tore up the hospital. Nobody could go into the emergency room. The hospital was shut down. They had the dogs on me. And I'm just begging them, "Please sir, can I hold him." I said that if he hears his momma he will fight because he is a fighter like me.

I went back over there to the community, and the people told me what happened to my son. They told me my son was scared. They were telling me about the accident. They said the van had flat tires. They told me the police hit him and knocked him into the stop sign. I didn't know that he was hit twice and hit from the back and hit from the side and when he was hit from the side he was knocked into two mail boxes then into two garages, and that's when they opened fire.

I've been out here fighting for five years on the battlefield and I've been supporting a lot of mothers, a lot of siblings because I know how it feels to lose a loved one and I know how it feels when you don't have support. When we get killed by the police, who do we run to? Who do we complain to? We have to depend on each other. The only way that we are going to get justice for my son is to connect with the people in the community and in the schools. Give them awareness and be there for them.

What we've been doing—I took the challenge of "no mother left behind." There are a lot of mothers who have lost a lot of children and are scared to speak up. A lot of people are afraid to speak because they fear that they will be exposed about their old stuff. We don't care about your old stuff. We're going to fight together. We're going to let them know you're not going to buff us.

I went to the city hall. I never knew we had a city hall. I learned how to protest. I learned how to use a computer. All the stuff I'm learning now I never knew of. When Oscar Grant was killed, remember they had marches in LA and Oakland. When I came back from Oakland I shut Stockton down! That was my first time. I didn't know what I was doing. I knew I did something because people said, "We never knew that people could protest like that in this town." I said that I didn't know either but I just went to Oakland.

I've been out doing what everyone is doing, researching, and sharing information because once we learn something we do better. I'm not going to go away. I'm not going to be blind. I'm going to fight until I can't fight no more. My mother, who was my big supporter, passed on November 18. When I traveled she watched my kids. I could call her for my backbone. When I need a community feed I call my momma. When I lost my mom I didn't know if I wanted to continue to fight because my momma was sick and I was too busy fighting this battle for justice, against police brutality to pay attention to my mom. But she was a fighter. She didn't want me to see her sick because she knew I would stop. So I thought about it and my mom wouldn't have wanted me to stop.

And guess what. We shut it down again. And on April 14, I'm going to kick Stockton's ass...

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