Revolution #161, April 12, 2009

Killed by Police:

Anthony Rosario and Hilton Vega—Civil Case Settled After 14 years

The following letter was sent by a Revolution reader/distributor:

With brutality and murder at the hands of police again on the rise around the country (I just read about two more in Chicago!), readers of Revolution should know about this:

After two weeks of testimony, there was a settlement in state Supreme Court in the Bronx on March 20 in the civil wrongful death case of Anthony Rosario and Hilton Vega, two young Latino men killed by two New York City detectives in 1995. For two weeks, the Rosario and Vega families and their supporters sat through testimony from the killer detectives, a medical examiner, and others. The friend of Anthony and Hilton who survived that night 14 years ago also testified, airing the true story in open court for the first time. Imagine having to listen as a judge interrupts every five minutes or scolds the family for sobbing during some of the most difficult testimony to listen to. This judge did both of these things and more. And when the parents of Anthony and Hilton took the stand, the judge instructed them to only talk about the facts of what happened when the police came to tell them their son and nephew were dead, and not show any emotion! They were not allowed to talk about these young men’s character, or that Hilton had a young child. The jury wasn’t allowed to hear that the two cops retired with a pension, collecting for disability for a “hearing injury” because the bullets were too loud -- their reward for this murder. The cops, during testimony, implied that the killings were Anthony and Hilton’s fault because they didn’t obey orders fast enough.

But with all this, what came through was a tale of an execution.

On Friday, a press conference and rally was held outside the court. About 30 people took part, including the Stolen Lives banner with a thousand listings out of the Stolen Lives Project book. The night before, Margarita Rosario, Carmen Vega, Iris Baez and Juanita Young [all relatives of people killed by the police] were on WBAI radio.

Anthony Rosario and Hilton Vega were killed on January 12, 1995, by two New York City detectives, Patrick Brosnan and James Crowe. It wasn’t till March 2009 in that courtroom in the Bronx that Freddy Bonilla, the friend of Anthony and Hilton who survived, finally was able to tell the true story in open court.


I first got to know Margarita Rosario in 1996 when we both took part in the first October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. The quote above is hers toward the end of the movie “Justifiable Homicide,” a film by Jon Osman and Jonathan Stack which takes you through what happened to her son and nephew, and the heart and courage of Margarita and other parents and family of people killed by police that choose to fight. You get to know this epidemic crime of police brutality up close and personal, including getting to know Anthony and Hilton. And if you’re really paying attention it’s a searing indictment of this capitalist system and the repressive force that enforces its domination and rule.

Anthony, Hilton and Freddy had gone to an apartment to collect some money owed to Hilton’s girlfriend. The two cops, who were called by those that owed this money, were waiting inside. Anthony and Hilton were shot by these cops, in the back, while face down on the floor, with the cops standing right above them. Anthony was shot 14 times. Hilton was shot 8 times. Freddy is alive only because the cops ran out of bullets. The medical examiner said they were shot in the front, but an independent autopsy showed all shots were in the back. The police had been exonerated by a grand jury that only heard the cops’ lying story. In the face of mounting exposure—because Margarita and the movement wouldn’t drop it—then-Mayor Giuliani repeatedly, on radio and in press conferences, tried to publicly humiliate and blame Margarita and Tony, Anthony’s father, for the murder saying they must have been bad parents. Brosnan had been Mayor Giuliani’s volunteer bodyguard, and Giuliani visited Brosnan after the murder. There was, not surprising, a major cover-up to get these murdering cops off. Margarita never quit. She and other families of victims of police brutality played a key role in an emerging national movement of resistance during the 1990s.

When she started waging this fight, she met other families and was a key force in bringing them together and starting Parents Against Police Brutality. There are a couple of powerful scenes from “Justifiable Homicide,” so many parents and siblings brought together here in New York by an epidemic of murder and brutality of the system’s enforcers that took a leap through the 1990s across the country. One of those scenes is in front of a beautiful mural of Anthony, Hilton, and the names of many other Stolen Lives that has covered two sides of Margarita’s house for years. These and other parents led protests across the country, stirring a whole upsurge of protest.

Over 2,000 people were killed by law enforcement in the 1990s, documented in the Stolen Lives Project. The vast majority were Black and Latino. This kind of thing runs through the whole history of this country, yet there was a leap in the 1990s. A whole generation criminalized. Now it’s generations, plural. The numbers are leaping again now. Some names are well known, like Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Anthony Baez, Oscar Grant. Maybe people heard of Nicholas Heyward Jr. or Malcolm Ferguson. Most aren’t so well known. Revolution #144, “The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need,” spoke of, with intense exposure of the brutal reality for a whole section of people, the roots of it and the profound truth that humanity can resolve this horror and bring into being a whole different world with revolution.

I just watched again Justifiable Homicide, and a rage just bubbled up in me. I thought about the beautiful struggle that erupted since Oscar Grant was murdered by the police in Oakland. Let’s bring together the courage and heart of the many parents like Margarita Rosario, the daring and courage of the stirring youth of Oakland and elsewhere, others from all walks of life who can’t stand the devastation this system puts people through, and the profound revolutionary vision and leadership of Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party, and really bring on the scene a movement clearly set on liberating humanity from a system that in reality can’t do anything but treat its youth this way.

Me and Margarita don’t agree on all things, but I’d say we definitely agree that the struggle is for a world where no one has to lose something so great in such a profoundly unjust way.

Revolution readers should check out Justifiable Homicide. Info is available at:


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