Teo Valencia, a Mexican-American man, was shot in the back with an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle by an as yet unnamed Newark, Calif., police officer on March 11. To add further injury, the grief-stricken family was racially profiled by the funeral home and not allowed to pay their last respects. The family was then further intimidated by the Newark Police Department.
The family only recently obtained the coroner’s report, with the help of the Anti Police-Terror Project. This is how they learned that Valencia was shot in the back. His family has remained strong and united, and they are refusing to back down in their quest for justice. They talk about how Valencia was known and loved by many people; that he was a charming and caring person with a beautiful smile; and that he was a loving son, brother, uncle and friend.
On July 14, the family, together with APTP and other supporters, held a vigil and march in Newark, culminating with the entire group of 75-plus people filing into the Newark City Council meeting. It is said that the city of Newark had never seen a protest until now. The family brought it strong, marching in the streets, taking a long loop around the city center, from the vigil site behind a Kentucky Fried Chicken store, where Valencia was killed, to the Newark Civic Center. The chanting and enthusiastic crowd made it clear that there is a strong community standing behind the family.
The family’s demands to the City Council were the following:
1) Justice for Valencia — a retraction and public apology from the Newark Police Department and that the officer who killed Valencia be named, fired and prosecuted
2) Demilitarize the Newark Police Department — the removal of AR-15 assault rifles and similar combat weapons and that police be trained to use minimum force.
In the council chambers, the family and supporters occupied all the seats and the surrounding wall space. One by one, family members spoke, often tearfully. Then, a number of community members spoke to back them up. The council was attentive but silent through all of the talks. However, when one of the last community speakers, Ruby of APTP, simply asked the council to say Valencia’s name, they exposed how cold-hearted they were about this terrible loss of life. Not one of them could bring themselves to utter the name “Teo Valencia.” The room filled with “Teo Valencia” every time Ruby looked to the audience, but each time she asked the council again to say his name, her simple humanitarian request was met with stone-cold silence!
(WW photo: Terri Kay)
(WW photo: Terri Kay)