Ruben Salazar, from the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive
(Collection 1429), Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young
Research Library, UCLA
Above, the news story on the death of Ruben Salazar, by Charles T. Powers and Jeff Perlman. Below, a tribute to Salazar by the late Frank del Olmo, Aug. 24, 1980.
"I think he often wrote his columns explaining things like ‘Who is a Chicano and what is it that Chicanos want?’ as much to clarify things in his own mind as he did to clarify them for his Anglo and other readers. And one of the saddest things about his death is that Ruben died never having fully answered many of those questions for himself, or for the Chicano community…. I know he was not a Chicano saint. But I know he was not just another Mexican American, either. " –Frank del Olmo, Los Angeles Times
Hi Larry ~~
The inquest was covered wall-to-wall pre-Watergate on more than one LA tv channel, if memory serves, without missing one word uttered. It came out after many days of testimony that the highly respected Ruben Salazar was hit in the head or face while standng in the back of a bar he was taking refuge in, without any warning, by a tear gas cannister, fired by either lapd or country sherrifs for absolutely no good reason. It had clearly been obvious to anyone who had seen the dead man’s head that the damage was much different than if it would have been if caused by a bullet, yet that fiction was immediately invented to quell any public realization the boys in blue were again at fault for anything that occurred, including the origins of the so-called riot.
When the coroner’s testimony got to the well-kept secret that the tear gas cannister was the murder weapon (my words), every one in the audience at the hearing and across the city was stunned, myself included, for this fact had not only been totally concealed by the cops and any knowledgable media people theretofore but every allusion that had been made by them up to that point kept alive the fiction that the victim had been shot by the mysterious killer Chicano cited on the front page who “escaped” out the back, making the desired suggestion the “rioters” were at fault for the death of one of their own, as opposed to the only people who obviously would have been firing tear gas.
During the hearings it was determined there was no threat emerging from the quiet bar. Tear gas was being used willy-nilly to drive people from out of hiding into the street where it was unmercifully unsafe. I do not believe any action of any significance was ever taken against the cop who fired the tear gas without any knowledge or care it would hit anyone in the head, or the cop above him who ordered or allowed it. I remember it being explained that the tear gas was fired from about a 5-ft level and that it traveled at that height directly to the unsuspecting and completely unwarned Salazar, and that this height was not the usual department preference.
Another police coverup, another unjust attack on an entire population, both literally and in print, another murder victim swept under the rug, during the reign of terror by uniformed racist Vietnam War-policy-protecting thugs known as the police.
38 years after a relatively young widely accomplished community leader’s life was ended, Ruben Salazar gets a stamp. What a trade-off.