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MALDEF Files Petition to Release Complete Files on Ruben Salazar PDF Print E-mail
Written by San Fernando Valley Sun   
Thursday, 26 April 2012 02:50

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a petition asking that Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca be compelled to release records relating to the death of journalist Ruben Salazar, but a sheriff's spokesman insisted the records had already been made public.

The petition filed in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges Baca has refused to release the complete files despite waiving exemption rights when he made the records available for public inspection in March 2011.

Salazar was killed while covering the National Chicano Moratorium march against the Vietnam War in 1970. He was inside a bar in the midst of the protest when he was struck in the head by a tear-gas canister fired by a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy.

Sheriff's investigators determined that deputies on the scene made some errors, but found no evidence that Salazar was targeted.

MALDEF brought the petition on behalf of documentary filmmaker Phillip Rodriguez and seeks access to records referring to Salazar's death and autopsy, as well as the ensuing investigation.

Rodriguez initially requested the documents in 2010.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore called the request "curious" since the department last year gave the public full access to all of the records.

"The sheriff opened up those files to anybody who wanted to see them," Whitmore said. "The Office of Independent Review dedicated a room where all the boxes were."

Whitmore said he personally "sat for hours" with people who came to review the records.

He called the MALDEF action "a curious statement on our society."

MALDEF contends in its complaint that over the past two years, the Sheriff's Department has maintained the documents were exempt from public records requests or otherwise subject to limitations on reviewing and copying. But Baca allowed public inspection of the records, thus waiving exemption rights, then refused to provide copies of the documents he allowed to be inspected, according to MALDEF.

"There is no reason, in logic or law, why the sheriff should continue to withhold information that he has already allowed to be reviewed by members of the public, related to a case that is over 40 years old," said Thomas A. Saenz, lead attorney on the case.

"The sheriff should understand that the community, including law enforcement, would benefit from greater knowledge and understanding about Ruben Salazar's tragic death," Saenz said.

Salazar worked for the Los Angeles Times from 1959 to 1970, when he left to become news director for KMEX. During his years at The Times, he became a role model for Latino journalists, serving as a foreign correspondent and Mexico City bureau chief.