L.A. County report urges release of some Salazar slaying records

Some of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department records regarding the 1970 slaying of Times columnist and KMEX-TV news director Ruben Salazar by a deputy should be released under state law, according to a confidential report sent this week to the county Board of Supervisors.

The county counsel’s office said records such as witness statements, facts and circumstances surrounding incidents, as well as diagrams of incidents, should be made public, according to a copy of the report obtained by The Times.

“Because of the age of the Ruben Salazar investigation, it is unlikely that ... a witness or the investigation would be endangered,” the report said. “Therefore, the items listed are subject to disclosure.”

The report was ordered last week by Supervisor Gloria Molina in response to an article in The Times about the Salazar files, which the newspaper has been seeking for five months after filing a California Public Records Act request.

Sheriff Lee Baca initially denied the request, but then said he would review the files.

Salazar was killed Aug. 29, 1970, by a deputy who fired a tear-gas missile into the Silver Dollar Bar in East Los Angeles, where the newsman had been taking a break while covering a riot that broke out during a huge anti- Vietnam War rally. The case has been clouded by controversy and questions for 40 years.

The county counsel report was sent to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, one day before Baca said he was turning over thousands of pages on the Salazar killing to the civilian watchdog that monitors the department.

Baca plans to publicly release the report by the county Office of Independent Review and use the findings to determine whether he will unseal any of the eight boxes of Salazar files, spokesman Steve Whitmore said Thursday evening.

“I’m sure that the sheriff is going to review the county counsel recommendations. He takes them very seriously,” Whitmore said. “But the OIR has begun its review, and that report will be made public.”

Lisa Salazar Johnson, one of Salazar’s daughters, said all the records about the slaying should be made public. “I feel that for my father I need to pursue this,” she said.

Molina and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas have also called for opening the files.

Parks, schools and scholarships have been named in honor of Salazar. The U.S. Postal Service also released a stamp in 2008 recognizing the award-winning journalist.

In a recent statement, Baca called Salazar an “admired reporter” whose “legacy includes inspiring young Hispanics to enter the field of journalism and shed light on problems affecting communities.”