Outrage on Top of Outrage!
Orange County, California District Attorney Justifies Anaheim Police Execution of Manuel Diaz

March 31, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Interview with Genevieve Huizar, Manuel Diaz's Mother,
on The Michael Slate Show, KPFK, March 22


On Saturday, July 21, 2012, at 4 in the afternoon, Officer Nick "Buckshot" Bennallack shot and killed unarmed Manuel Angel Diaz on Anna Drive in Anaheim, California, where Diaz lived. He was shot twice—first in the buttocks, and then in the back of the head. As he lay bleeding and dying on the grass, officers handcuffed and searched him.

Manuel Diaz was known by everyone in the neighborhood for helping to bring in groceries and laundry, for being respectful and friendly. His execution by Anaheim police in broad daylight outraged friends and neighbors, who poured out of their apartments screaming at the murdering cops. Later that day men, women, and children righteously took to the streets to protest and condemn the murder. In an attack captured on video and shown on TV in the U.S. and internationally, police fired beanbag rounds and pepper balls—so-called "non-lethal projectiles"—on people at close range and "accidentally" unleashed a dog that overturned a stroller, bit a parent, and terrified children.

Manuel's murder and the killing of Joel Acevedo in another neighborhood the following day sparked days and weeks of protest and rebellion that rocked Anaheim, shone a light on the oppression and repression undergirding "the happiest place on earth," and inspired solidarity and support actions across the country.

On March 20, 2013, the Orange County District Attorney's office issued a report clearing Bennallack, saying there was no evidence to support a finding of criminal culpability.

The DA's report demonizes Manuel Diaz. It concocts a story of Bennallack fearing for his life and justifiably using deadly force by shooting Diaz in the back of the head, and it weaves justification out of lies and factors that had nothing to do with and are irrelevant to the actual shooting. In response Manuel's mother, Genevieve Huizar, said the report was "a bunch of lies …cover-up …manipulation. I don't believe half of what's in that report. I believe Bennallack is a murderer. He executed my son and for that he needs to go to prison."

In the months before shooting Manuel Diaz, in January 2012, Bennallack shot and killed Bernie Villegas, 36, who had been shooting a BB gun at an empty bottle. Then, on July 21, 2012, Bennallack and his partner rolled up on three Latino youth in the alley behind the apartments on Anna Drive.

Dana Douglas, an attorney for Diaz's family, put this in context in an interview with Michael Slate on KPFK, Los Angeles: "Anaheim is really two different cities," she said. "There's Anaheim Hills, a rich white area, and then the flatlands, where this shooting occurred, which is mostly Hispanic and mostly impoverished. These are the people who work for Disneyland, work for the hotels, support the tourist business, these are poor areas…. In Anaheim Hills, in the white area, the affluent area, three young white men standing around have nothing to fear from the police.... Not so in these poor areas where people have brown skins. Instead in those areas police target the young men like this and these young men never ever have a positive interaction with the police. So when Bennallack and his partner rolled up on these guys standing around talking, everybody knew what was going to happen. So Manuel Diaz took off, he didn't need this grief…."

Bennallack, who chased Diaz down and shot him in the back of the head, claims that he feared Diaz had a gun and would turn and shoot him.

"Here's the facts," Douglas said. "Manuel had no gun. He didn't point anything at Bennallack. He didn't threaten Bennallack in any way. He wasn't making any menacing gestures. Of the 50 witnesses interviewed, not a single one said he pointed anything at Bennallack or made any gesture toward Bennallack whatsoever."

Despite the fact that no gun was found on Diaz's body or in the area of the shooting or the chase, the report justified Bennallack's claim of self-defense by "the simple fact that Diaz may have been holding a gun." The DA's report supported this "simple fact" by noting three points that demonize and slander Diaz and have nothing to do with the actual facts of his murder.

One, that Diaz had a prior felony conviction for possessing a gun. This is not relevant—Diaz was not on parole or probation, and a prior conviction is no basis for a death sentence.

Second, the report says that a police raid on August 10 seized 40 guns that police claim were found in possession of members of the gang in that area. This is beyond outrageous—this multi-agency task force raid they refer to was carried out in retaliation for the righteous resistance to Manuel Diaz's murder on Anna Drive. It was an attempt to recast public opinion in favor of the police, including by using the media—to in effect justify the murder of Diaz and the mass incarceration of other youth on the block on the basis of labeling them publicly as "documented gang members" who deserve to be killed and locked up. This police raid rounded up nearly all of the young men in the neighborhood who had stood up against Manuel's murder. One young man arrested in the raid was identified as a "gang member" because he had participated in the car wash to raise money for Diaz's funeral. Many of the guns the police displayed, as if they had been seized in the raid, had actually been purchased by police informants or agents over previous months and had not been seized during the raid.

Third, in a blatant example of blaming the victim, the report said that some of the hundreds of pictures on the cell phone found near Diaz's body showed him holding a gun—painting Diaz as a dangerous "bad guy" who ought to have been killed. As Dana Douglas said, "It's just like a rape case. Their tactic, their whole thing here, is to blame the victim for this murder….. You know what? Manuel Diaz never committed a violent act in his life…unlike the police officer, who is the one who committed the violence."

Diaz's mother, Genevieve Huizar, has refused to accept the murder of her son, not the physical murder nor the murder of his humanity through demonization and defamation of character. She continues to fight and to support other families facing murder by police. The day after the District Attorney's report was issued, a candlelight vigil of about 30 people was held for Diaz. Hearing about the killing of Kimani Gray in New York, Huizar said, "I just want people to know that we don't have color lines, city lines, county lines or state lines. We want to help people across this United States. We want to be helped by people across this United States."

She described Manuel as "a good son. A loving son. At home he made everybody laugh, he'd play with all his nieces and nephews, he was a good student, he went to the Job Corps, he played basketball, he played football. Ever since he was just a little kid, he was my heart, and they ripped that away from me."

Manuel Diaz was one of the generation of youth for whom this system has no future; those who it demonizes, locks up, and kills to terrorize and control them so as to prevent them from threatening its rule. He was torn away from those who loved him. Many of the friends who righteously rose up to oppose the howling injustice of his murder are now locked up in retaliation for daring to resist. In January of this year, a gang injunction was imposed on Anna Drive to further control the youth. But:

"The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world… when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness… those days must be GONE. And they CAN be." (From "The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have. A Message, and a Call, from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA")

Righteous resistance to the oppression and repression of Latino people in Anaheim and across the country must be upheld and supported. The outrageous justification of the criminal Anaheim police murder of Manuel Diaz must be condemned and opposed as part of building the movement for revolution to put an end to the police murder of our youth, and all the other outrages of this system, once and for all.

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