On July 27, 2012, 24-year-old Manuel Diaz was shot in the back of the head by Anaheim police officer Nick Bennallack. Officers then stood over Diaz, who was unarmed, for three minutes, watching him twitch and bleed out before doing anything. It was an execution.
Almost two years later, a federal jury has rejected a lawsuit against the officer and the city filed by Diaz’s mother claiming police used excessive force. Why? Because it happened in a neighborhood where there are gangs and Diaz was, according to police, dressed like a “gang member”.
As the OC Register reports (emphasis mine):
One of the jurors said that on Anna Drive, where the shooting happened, police could reasonably expect that a man dressed like a gang member and running from them could have a gun. The neighborhood is claimed by an Anaheim gang that was at the center of a multiagency firearms and narcotics investigation.
In other words, had this happened in an upper-class suburban neighborhood free of gang activity, perhaps then it would qualify as excessive force. But in the working class and poor Latino neighborhoods of Anaheim, young men like Diaz are fair game for police execution, armed or not (Diaz was not).
Humberto Guizar, the Diaz family attorney, called the jury’s decision, “ an indictment on the community,” adding, “They denied him justice because of where he lived.”
The jury, comprised of six men and two women (four white, three Latino and one Asian), deliberated for just two hours before reaffirming the long held belief that unarmed Latino men are disposable.
To be clear, “gang member” is code for nonwhite, usually black or Latino. Immediately after Diaz was killed, Anaheim police (in between shooting rubber bullets at women and children protesting the killing) painted him as a gang member who despite being unarmed probably did something to deserve his fate. And it worked. The cop who killed Diaz was cleared of any wrongdoing by the city. All that was left was this lawsuit brought forth by Diaz’s grieving mother. She plans to appeal.