Dozens of demonstrators gathered Sunday outside the California Highway Patrol office in Santa Ana to protest last week’s fatal shooting of a 19-year-old man by undercover officers involved in a street-racing investigation.
Carrying signs that stated “Strong communities make police obsolete” and “Killer cops, quit your job,” the demonstrators rallied against the July 3 shooting of Pedro Villanueva in Fullerton.
Villanueva was among dozens at a Santa Fe Springs “sideshow” where truck drivers were performing dangerous burnouts, all while undercover CHP officers monitored the area. As uniformed officers closed in, Villanueva fled in a red Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. Officers in an unmarked car followed him for about five miles into a dead-end street in Fullerton, where just before 11 p.m. Villanueva made a U-turn and drove toward officers. Officers opened fire and he died at the scene.
Naui Huitzilopochtli, who described himself as an indigenous rights activist and an organizer for Sunday’s protest, said it was unclear if Villanueva even knew that he was followed by undercover police.
“Why not wait for backup?” he said. “It seems like police shoot first and ask questions later.”
At its peak, the protest had more than 100 people and it drew to a close about 3:30 p.m. The gathering was peaceful and there were no arrests made, according to Santa Ana police.
Huitzilopochtli said the rally was not an anti-police demonstration but a call for the CHP and local police to improve the training of officers and weed out “bad cops.” He also said the demonstration aimed to provide more visibility about the Mexican and indigenous communities that are affected by police brutality.
“Not all police are bad. We congratulate the police that go after the bad guys,” Huitzilopochtli said. “But there are police that are bullies. In any profession, there are corrupt people.”
Time staff writer James Queally contributed to this report.
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