When the Police Take Your Sons Away, Part 3
The Murder of Angel Castro
by Virus X
Revolutionary Worker #929, October 26, 1997
Picture your child gunned down. Killed in a street in full view of a group of a people. The killers' faces are seen and clearly recognized. Some people even try and report this to the authorities. Yet nothing happens. No investigation. No charges pressed. No suspects hauled before the hungry cameras, hiding their faces from the bright flashes of light. Words of consolation for you and your family are not forthcoming from government officials. Nor are there any special stories done on "America's Most Wanted" urging "good citizens" to help in the hunt for the criminals. There is no need for that, because their address is well known and nearby. It's as close as the local police station. Because that's who the killers are.
For hundreds of families across this country, this is their reality. A son, a daughter, a mother or a father murdered by the police. Shot. Beaten to death. Asphyxiated. With no remorse by the cops, or justice from the system. In the case of Jorge Guillen, it was done in his apartment in full view of his wife and children. In the case of Eric Smith it was on a highway in full view of his mother and grandmother. In the case of James Quarles in Baltimore, it was done on camera and televised to a nation. It is systematic, it is widespread and it must stop.
To that end, a movement of resistance is growing. Voices being raised that were once silent. Those who have been brutalized by the police. The relatives of those murdered by the police. Speaking out. Demanding justice. Demanding an end to this war on the people.
Over the last month, Virus X, a reporter from the RW, spoke with six courageous women. Each one has had their lives torn apart and their child stolen from them by the authorities.
These are not stories about passive victims. They are fighting for their children, they are fighting for others. Some have pulled together groups of family members such as "Justice Is Blind" and "Mothers Against Injustices." Others have worked with organizations opposing the death penalty or police brutality. Some have been involved in building for this year's October 22nd National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality.
Some are new to protest, others have marched in the streets before. They have been harassed by police and forced to make tremendous sacrifices. Yet none of them has backed down. Their lives teach us all about the cost in human suffering this system extracts, and the strength of those who dare to resist.
Parts 1 and 2 of this series (#927-928) featured stories of women whose sons were framed and railroaded into prison. This week, Linda Giron, whose son, Angel Castro Jr., was murdered by the Chicago police, tells her story.
Linda Giron: Fighting for Angel
"In the beginning when my son was first killed, I wouldn't eat at all. My daughter kept asking me why and I said, `Why should I eat when he'll never eat again?' My daughter kept saying `you can't do that mom.' That's how I felt. Why should I be sitting here breathing this air, why should I be living when he's not? At night I couldn't sleep and I used to think, he'll be sleeping forever now."
There are no words to describe the pain Linda Giron feels. You see it when she looks at pictures of her son cradling his nephew. You hear it when she talks about the tiny infant who barely survived his first few weeks. And you feel it--the simmering rage each time she recounts the night that her only son--Angel Castro, Jr., age 15--was gunned down by the Chicago police.
At times, everything before that night appears like a dream. It's not that things were easy. A teenage daughter with two kids and a husband with a job flipping burgers. A teenage son, just out of a gang, catching flak from cops who hate Puerto Ricans. A divorced mother paying the bills on a security guard's salary. Not easy, but they all still had hopes and dreams for a better life.
All that changed on October 23, 1996. One moment Linda kissed her Angel goodbye on his way to a friend's birthday party, the next moment she's on the other end of a phone call, listening as police walk into her apartment and tell her daughter that Angel may have been shot. It was a parent's worst nightmare.
"Who did this to my son!" "Why was he killed!" she asked at the morgue. Linda was desperate for answers. The police gave her the run-around. "It was a gang shooting." "He was shooting at the police." "He was pointing a gun at the police." "We found his gun on a roof, but we won't tell you if his prints were on it." The more they talked the less they made any sense at all.
It took months and months before Linda learned the full story of what the police did to her son. How Angel had been riding a bike up a street as a cop was speeding through an alley. How the collision sent Angel crashing to the ground. And how as he was rising to his feet, Angel was struck in the side of his head by a cop's bullet, then left to lie handcuffed and shaking in the street until he died.
The harassment came soon enough. Shortly after the funeral, Linda went shopping with her grandmother. It was still a very difficult time for her, and an encounter with a Chicago cop in the store made matters worse. "I don't know why but my stomach was really nervous, like something was going to happen. I was looking at some gloves, when I felt like I was just going to vomit. So I looked up, and it was that cop, Mancuso. He was standing there laughing in my face. I went up to my grandmother and I told her what was going on. When I looked again he was with two other detectives. They were standing there making comments. I just looked at Mancuso real mean, and another cop said, `Oh, it looks like she's mad at you.' Mancuso says, `I don't give a fuck, that's the mother of that 15-year-old we just killed.' They were just laughing, and they kept laughing and laughing."
She reported this to the Office of Professional Standards (OPS)--the city agency that's supposed to look into cases of police abuse. "If he didn't touch you what are you complaining about," was their response. That become the routine for Linda. The police would harass, she'd tell OPS--and the cops would harass her even more.
Some things were pretty obvious--the search of Angel's bedroom before his body was even cold. The hostile police presence at the funeral. Being followed by an unmarked car all the way to the cemetery in the suburbs. Some things just seemed awfully coincidental--slashed tires, broken antennas, a blocked engine, and frequent hang-up calls after Linda's complaints to OPS.
Linda stood her ground. Despite the fact that police would cruise by, glare, smirk, threaten, sound their siren, and even make arrests--every month she continued to hold candlelight vigils where Angel died. A few dozen people would gather--Angel's friends, family and supporters--while Angel's stepfather read the rosary. To do more, Linda leafleted and postered the area with a flyer bearing pictures of Angel "before" and "after" he was killed by police with the warning--"The murderers are still prowling the streets and you or your child could be their next victim. They must be brought to justice." Linda spoke before police board meetings and went door to door seeking out witnesses who would speak out on the murder of her son. She was determined to get justice.
Linda soon found out just how difficult that would be. To file a suit she needed a witness--willing to risk police retaliation. One woman who saw Angel get shot was subjected to eight hours of police interrogation, after which she was immediately hospitalized from an asthma attack. It's no surprise that she won't talk. Nor will others. "They told me that they didn't want to wind up like my son," said Linda. "One kid, he told me that he didn't want to talk, that he knew they would end up killing him. One cop punched the one kid in the face, and told him he had better keep his mouth shut."
This has become unbearably frustrating for Linda. "I know that a lot of times people won't go against the police because they're afraid. They say, if they broke my leg this time, maybe tomorrow they'll break my neck or they'll kill me. They're afraid to talk, they're afraid to come out and say what happened. It's only giving the cops more ammunition to go out and do it again. The cops are gonna say `I got them scared. I got them where I want them.' As long as people keep being afraid of police, they're gonna keep getting away with whatever they want."
Linda says this with no illusions about the price she and her family might pay for defying the police. The cops not only murdered her son, but have subjected her whole family to abuse. Her son-in-law was assaulted and choked by a cop in a McDonald's and last winter taken away by police and dropped miles from their home. Before Angel was killed, Linda's teenage daughter was physically and verbally assaulted by cops when she was five months pregnant. And then shortly after Angel's death, she was taken, along with some friends, to a police station at gunpoint, locked up and subjected to a stream of crude sexual jokes from the cops. When the police learned she was Angel's sister, they made remarks about him as well.
There are times Linda bends from the pressure. Times she feels like she can't go on. Times she wonders what good any of it will do. But she never quits. "I can't give up. My son had a right to live and they had no right to kill him. I have to fight for my son because he's not here to fight for himself. He's not here to clear his name, so I have to clear his name for him... Before I would be afraid, now I'm not. Because they were the ones that killed my son. And they're out there walking the streets. I surprise myself sometimes, because I snap at them and just look at them dead in their face--like, `I'm not afraid of you, do whatever you want. I'm not afraid.' "
Linda's courage is not hers alone. More often than not, the voices of those speaking out against police abuses belong to women. Meeting with and talking to just a few of those women has been a source of encouragement for Linda. "I see them as strong women. It makes me feel good, because they're not being intimidated by the cops. They're speaking out. They're standing up for themselves. They're not saying, `No, I'm a woman. I can't do this. Let a man go and do it, I'm not strong enough for this.' They're proving that they are strong. I guess maybe that's why people tell me that I am strong. I guess I see other people as being strong, but I don't see myself that way."
On October 23, 1997, it will be one year since Angel's murder. One year and still no justice. Only a few months ago Linda received a letter from OPS informing her that the shooting of her son was ruled justified. It has left her utterly disgusted, with no faith in the police or OPS and serious doubts of ever seeing justice for her son. But what she does believe in is continuing to fight--for Angel and for others. "As long as the people keep coming out, and speaking out, and everybody's hearing them and everybody's seeing what's really going on--it might scare the cops a little bit. They're going to start thinking, the mayors, and the state's attorney, they might start saying, `wait a minute--we got to start watching out what we do.'"
And if the police and their superiors don't back off? Linda has some words of warning for them. "Sometimes I think that it's going to get to the point where people are just going to walk on them. I know I'm sick of them, and I know a lot of people are sick of them. And it's going to get to the point where people are not going to take being abused by them. It's going to be a big war."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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