Revolution #217, November 21, 2010

Michael Slate Interviews Michele Collender

The Savage Police Execution of Julian Collender

Julian Collender, 25 years old, grew up in Yorba Linda, Orange County, in southern California. Julian was a skater, loved music, managed bands, and started a couple of independent record labels along the way. He was headed to Cal State Fullerton in hopes of becoming a screenwriter. On the night of June 30, 2010, arriving home around midnight, Julian found himself surrounded by heavily armed cops. Within seconds, Julian lay near dead on the ground, his guts torn apart after being shot by a military assault rifle. Julian's family agonized over his execution by the cops—and they and others have fought back. Skate crews and punk bands have held memorials and started a website and a Facebook page. The Collender family and their friends and neighbors have packed City Council meetings, going up in the face of attempts by the police and city officials to cover up and justify the murder. They've gotten arrogant silence in return—witness to what Bob Avakian refers to as the "conspiracy to get the cops off" when they brutally murder people.

On October 22, Julian's father, Richard, spoke at the National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. A week or so later I got in touch with Julian's sister, Michele, and asked her to come onto my radio show and tell the story of her brother—his life and his murder.

—Michael Slate

A Note on the Interview
We are publishing this interview courtesy of The Michael Slate Show on KPFK radio, Los Angeles. The views expressed by the interviewee are, of course, her own, and she is not responsible for the views expressed elsewhere in this newspaper.

Michael Slate: Michele, welcome to the show.

Michele Collender: Thank you for having me. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to get my brother's story out there and acknowledging what we've been doing to try to get some answers and actions from authorities.

Slate: Why don't you tell people what happened to Julian?

Collender: Like you said, earlier this year, on June 30, my brother Julian Collender, he was shot and killed by the Brea Police in front of my parents' home in Yorba Linda.

Slate: This is part of the savagery of what they do.

Collender: My brother, he was 25 years old. He had no prior record. He was unarmed, when the Brea Police shot and killed him with a high-powered assault rifle in front of the house that we grew up in, in Yorba Linda. The terrifying picture that the police have painted for us is that three people went to the police station and reported an armed robbery only 15 minutes before the shooting occurred. The report happened three hours after the supposed, alleged robbery actually occurred.

Slate: So the robbery supposedly occurred at 8:15 and they didn't go until 11:15 or something?

Collender: 11:35, actually. It was over three hours later, and as far as we can tell the police did nothing to substantiate this report. Like I said, Julian had no prior record. And within less than an hour, they were already outside my parents' home. Multiple units were there, including at least one unmarked car, while Julian was arriving home. The police stopped him. He got out of his car. There were multiple officers shouting different commands at him. Jules was unarmed, and he was alone. There were at least five officers there. And within a few seconds of getting out of his car, he was shot and killed with a high-powered assault rifle.

Slate: He was shot with a high-powered assault rifle. It would be important for people to understand, again, in terms of the savagery of this, what that meant. And what did they do to him after that?

Collender: Yeah. I think it is important. People want to point out, why do you say assault rifle? But I think it is important. Those weapons, number one, a lot of people don't even know that municipal police actually have those weapons, and they do. They're supposed to be locked up. So the fact that it took this officer time and thought to get that rifle out to kill my brother I think says a lot. And what happened after is, they handcuffed him.

Slate: After he was dead.

Collender: Yes. He was shot and then immediately handcuffed. Even though he was shot with this high-powered weapon that—you know, he was in shock. His body's in shock. He couldn't move. He couldn't do anything. He already posed no threat to the officers to justify their shooting, and there he is, shot, dying in the street in front of my parent's home, and they handcuffed him. It's absolutely disgusting.

Slate: Then what happened?

Collender: And then, my mom, she was awoken by the sound of the gunshot, and she was outside of the house within minutes. She opens the door and she's faced with a SWAT team, I mean this is within minutes, SWAT pointing guns at her, pointing lights at her, shouting different commands at her. She finally gets down the steps to the street and a police officer grabs her, slams her against the side of the car, puts her in handcuffs behind her back, and searches her and puts her in the back of a police car. And the same thing happens to my dad, to Julian's dad, right after they shoot Julian. And just to paint a picture for people, my mom, and my dad, they're in their 60s, they're grandparents. My mom, she is maybe a hundred pounds on a good day. She's 5'5", a small woman. To treat her like that after shooting her son. I have no words for it.

Slate: And it gets worse. They detained your mother and father, right?

Collender: They did. They put them in the back of separate police cars. They were each handcuffed behind their back. My mom had bruises on her arms. My dad had cuts. They detained them for hours, wouldn't tell them anything, wouldn't give them any answers, wouldn't tell them anything, just kept saying, "This is a crime scene."

And then after a couple hours, released them from the separate police cars, but then told them they had to go about half a block away outside of what they call, a "crime scene," which I find ridiculous, because the only crime that occurred there is the murder of my brother, and they weren't even allowed to see him or touch him.

So about four hours or so after my brother was shot and they were released from the police cars, they're waiting to hopefully get a cab or something because they knew what was going on kind of, and they thought they should go to the hospital. Finally, instead of a police officer going up to them and compassionately telling them what happened, a police officer on the other side of the street called them over and says, with no compassion, "I can tell you what happened now. Your son is at Kaiser. He died." Turns around and walks away. And that's it. They offer my parents no ride to the hospital, no offer for counseling, nothing like that.

They were able to get to a neighbor's house, to give them a ride to the hospital, and were even detained before leaving the neighbor's house. They were stopped in the car and detained and questioned.

Slate: The neighbor's car was stopped?

Collender: Yes. It's really unbelievable.

Slate: One thing they did too, as I understand it, your parents also, because they were asleep when the murder happened, they came out of the house to check out what was going on and your mom was in a bathrobe and a nightgown, your father had no shirt on and no shoes, right?

Collender: Exactly. No shirt, no shoes. My mom was in a knee-length bathrobe, no shoes. They had no money, no car, they couldn't get anywhere.

Slate: And they weren't allowed back in the house to change or get money or anything else.

Collender: No, they weren't allowed back into their house to get their car to drive to the hospital, nothing. And then the way they treated them at the hospital. They wouldn't even let them see Julian's body. They had to fight with the doctors, with the police and just begged them and pleaded with them, "Let us see our son."

Finally they acquiesced, and let them in the room. But not before warning them before they went in. A police officer said, "Don't make me lay hands on you," before allowing them into the room to see Julian, who had already died. And they wouldn't even let them touch him. They said, "You can stand five feet back for 20 seconds. Don't make us lay hands on you." And it was clear that that was how it was going to go down. Again, I just don't have the words for that, to not allow a parent to touch their son, their baby. That's my parents' baby, he's the youngest.

Back to what you were saying they were not let back into the house until later that day, about 10 probably hours or so after Julian was shot. They searched the home.

Not only do they do that to Julian and take our youngest son, our youngest brother, and then completely dehumanize my parents by leaving them with nothing, and forcing them to walk around the hospital barefoot, in clothes borrowed from neighbors, my mom in her bathrobe, going to a hotel room that day so they could have a place to stay until they can get back in their home, walking around the hotel room like that. There's just no humanity. It makes me sick.

Slate: As well it should, sick with anger. Michele, one of the things I want to ask is that part of the demonization of your brother is they've done a lot. They say they found guns in the house. They've done a lot of dancing around what happened in terms of painting a picture that somehow your brother deserved what he got. Can you speak to that?

Collender: I do not know how someone can say that Julian deserved what he got. No one deserves what Julian got. Julian was not a criminal. He was not a thug. He had no prior record. The information that the Brea Police have released is only in their press release, which is so minimal and so full of holes, and absolutely misleading and sometimes false. They said that Julian came out of the house and confronted police officers, and that's just a lie. He was coming home and he was stopped. He wasn't coming out of the house. They also said that they found evidence linking him to this earlier reported crime based on search warrants. That's not true. You're right.

The information they've provided, even by not saying whether or not he was armed, is implicating to people that he was. Or maybe he did something for this to happen to him. But the truth is, they've provided no explanation whatsoever for why they shot him. And they've provided no explanation, no apology to my parents for how they treated them, for handcuffing them in the back of police cars.

They won't give us police reports. They won't give us the autopsy. They really just won't say anything. Comparing it to other shootings, basically every other shooting, including the Westlake shooting, within four days, people had all the information on why the man was shot, what happened, "He had a knife, these are the officers involved," etc., because they thought it was maybe a justified shooting, which I'm not going to talk about, but now this is four months, more than four months, after my brother has been killed. And they still won't give us any information.

Slate: They won't even allow you to know the name of the cop who shot your brother.

Collender: That's true. They will not release his name, even though he's back on duty. I've been calling the Brea Police, you know we've all been trying to get answers. We've all been trying to get information. I talked to Sgt. Smyser. He's the spokesperson for the Brea Police, and he has confirmed that the officer is back on duty, even though there's been no internal investigation completed. That's just terrifying. If they think it's a good shoot, if they think it's justified enough to put that officer back on duty, then why can't they be transparent about this? Why can't they give us information? To me, them hiding their information is a testament to their guilt.

Slate: You've also led a fight around this, which as I was telling you earlier, was really heartening to see so many people coming out, and one, just the expressions of support for Julian, for who he was and the impact of his murder on them, but before we talk about who Julian was, why don't we talk a little about the fight that you've led around this. What is it that you're trying to do? What have you done so far? What's the response been?

Collender: Julian's friends have been amazing. That's a testament, I think, to who Julian was, and what a great person he was. What's going on now in the case is, it's currently under investigation by the District Attorney's Office. They've told us it's going to be about six months to a year until they make a final determination on whether or not to press charges. We would like to see the DA press charges. We would like to see the DA bring a good, zealous case against this officer shooter for what's happened. Based on what I know and what I see, I believe this officer's guilty of murder. But that's up to the DA to at least bring a case so that this officer shooter can face a jury of his peers as far as what happened.

Slate: Has the Orange County DA ever brought a case against a cop for something like this?

Collender: No. No. That's the thing. Officer shootings are investigated by the Orange County District Attorney, which is supposed to be an independent investigation. But, like you asked, the Orange County District Attorney has never pressed charges on an officer shooter before. There's an underlying relationship here between the District Attorney and the police. So the DA relies on the police to testify basically in every prosecution that they bring. So to realistically think that they're going to alienate an entire police department is kind of absurd. And in Julian's case specifically, there's two very important things beyond just this underlying relationship that I'm really concerned about. First of all, I believe they're doing an ineffective and incomplete investigation. They've told us now that the investigation's actually completed, and has been forwarded to a district attorney for legal review. Even though it's been completed, I have no faith that it's at all comprehensive, because no DA investigator has even come out to talk to my parents, who are witnesses.

Secondly, it's not an independent investigation. There's a gigantic conflict of interest here. They're relying on the Brea Police's investigation of the supposed underlying crime. So how is that an independent investigation to rely on the Brea Police, the police agency? In my opinion, they're not going to give them any objective information. They only have an interest in providing self-serving information to justify their actions later, to justify their shooting and their murder of Julian, their execution of my brother.

Slate: When you mention this thing about the Orange County DA and the fact that they haven't brought a charge against any cop who's shot any person, you also talked about the fact that they won't name the cop. To this day, the cop remains unnamed. Now, there is no law that says that they have to leave the cop unnamed. In fact, it seems to me that it's part of the continuing demonization. I remember when a man named Julian Alexander was killed in Anaheim. He had walked out of his house to check what the noise was, what was going on, and he got shot. They did the same thing. They would not release the name of the cop that killed him, and the whole thing was, they even had an article in the LA Times saying it would endanger the officer if people knew. It's the further demonization of your brother, of the victim and the victim's friends and family, as if they're the ones that society has to be concerned about and worried about, as opposed to these hog-wild, mad-dog police that are going and executing people at will.

Collender: I absolutely agree. Julian Alexander, yeah, that's another tragic case. Of course, I feel for his family and everything. You're right. By protecting those officers' names, it's giving them a shield, it's giving them another tool to be able to hide behind their badge and prevent people from closure, from healing and grieving. And again, this officer shooter's back on duty.

Slate: I wanted to ask you to tell people a little about your brother because what never comes through is the truth about the person that the police execute. Tell us a little bit about your brother.

Collender: Jules was amazing. And thank you for asking, because that's one thing, you know, that people take away from this is, this is a human life. This is my brother, and this is my parents' son, and this is an uncle. Jules was—he's just the coolest, most dynamic, stylish person I've ever known. (Pauses) I want to get this out, because I do want people to know. People who know Jules know that they'll never meet anyone like him again. But more than what a great person he was, of course, I'm going to cry because he's my brother and I miss him and I love him so much, but he really was just a very good person. He's a tall, skinny guy. He was no threat to these officers, he's surrounded by these cops and it's just tragic what happened. But who he was, he was a funny guy, goofy guy. He loved music. He started his first record label when he was like 17 years old. He loved playing guitar. He loved playing drums, supporting his friends' band. He was going to college. He was going to be a film major at Cal State Fullerton. He was getting into screenwriting. He devoured movies. So he was really into that.

He was really liked by everyone he met. You could meet Jules one time and people just—he was so charismatic, and not in a fake way, but just so sincere. He could get along with everybody, from my boyfriend's 80-year-old grandparents at my graduation, to like a struggling punk rock band living in a van. He was all over the place, and he was just great, he really was.

He loved skateboarding.

Slate: I watched the video of him skateboarding that was up, and it was amazing. He had quite a few skills on that.

Collender: He did. He was a great skateboarder. He'd been doing it since he was 12 years old, and his closest friends were skateboarders. He gave his friends and him the name, The Razor Sharp Crew, and they still use it to this day, and they're amazing. That's just who Jules was. He was great.

Slate: What can people do if they want to support this cause?

Collender: Like you mentioned, we have this website, There's a link to a petition there that we're trying to get to the Orange County District Attorney to get the District Attorney to press charges on this case. That's the most important thing here. This shouldn't happen to anybody, but it could happen to anybody and it happens too often. We need to stop that, and we need accountability from the police. That's what we need to do. We need the District Attorney to press charges in this, we need a federal investigation, and we need to hold the police accountable.
Because it doesn't matter if you have a badge. If you commit a crime behind a badge, you're still a criminal. And if you murder someone behind a badge, you're still a murderer.

Slate: Thank you very much for being with us today, and we'll keep in touch with you about developments.

The Michael Slate Show is where you'll hear some of the most radical, provocative and farseeing analysis in the country today, including the voice and analysis of Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. It provides an in-depth look at the critical and cutting-edge issues of the times. And it's the one spot on the dial where revolutionaries, scholars, journalists, artists and everyday people who care about finding the truth and changing the world have a platform for their voices and their ideas. This is revolutionary radio. It's radio  that digs into the world as it is and how it should be and could be. Don't miss it!

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