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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: South Bay | Education & Student Activism | Immigrant Rights | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice
Antonio Lopez: The Anatomy of Police Murder and Cover Up
On February 21, 2014, the San Jose State University Police Department (UPD) murdered a community member, an undocumented Mexican immigrant.
UPD Sgt. Michael "Mike" Santos shot him in the back, twice, in broad daylight, in the middle of the day, just off campus in a residential area, directly in front of the SJSU childcare center, while still full of children. A stray bullet from his gunfire went through the 2nd floor window of a sorority into a bedroom full of young female SJSU students. Since that time, the UPD in direct collusion with the SJPD, Campus Administration and elements of the media have proceeded to concoct a story around the slaying of Antonio Lopez Guzman, 38. In a campus wide and public statement, University President Mohammad Qayoumi then proceeded in media outlets and to the students directly to congratulate the officers for their rapid response and heroic actions, swiftly moving to support his department and validate "their" story. Collectively they have attempted to distort the truth, silence and/or harass witnesses into altering and changing their stories to match their concocted version, and have begun a broad based cover up at every level of the department, campus, city and county. These aren't just allegations, we can actually PROVE THIS, witnesses have come forward.
The truth of what happened however, is this...
Antonio & The Local PD
Antonio Lopez Guzman was a 38 year old, sometimes transient, undocumented day laborer, a father of a four year old son (Josiah), and stepfather to a 10 year old daughter (Angelique) whom he had raised since the age of three. Antonio spoke extremely limited English, as such he primarily worked odd construction or landscaping jobs, where speaking didn't matter or his Spanish sufficed. He regularly volunteered at the Antioch Baptist Church, one of the oldest black churches in the state, and THE oldest in the city and county. He also volunteered at the Veterans Shelter and provided and served food to San Jose's homeless, at St. James Park and The Jungle, amongst other places. By all accounts even those of some SJPD officers, he was a profoundly nice, well mannered and respectful man, a loving father, brother, and friend, a caring spouse, and the joy in his sons life. This however didn't stop him from becoming a victim of racially charged police brutality and now, murder.
Only a year ago (September 2013), here in San Jose a group of multi-agency police (Santa Clara County Sheriffs and San Jose Police Department) beat, brutalized and sexually tortured/assaulted Antonio, yelling; "You f--king wetback, when will you learn, you need to speak English to live in this country!" After beating him, they arrested and charged him for resisting arrest, on a street stop that the police had instigated without cause. So severe were Antonio's injuries, that before taking him to jail, they took him to Valley Medical Center to be seen, then they took him back into custody, booked him and began processing him for incarceration. While in jail he began to have trouble breathing and was in fact drowning in his own blood. The police again took him to the hospital, he had to be admitted due to the distress caused by so much blood in his lungs, the blood had to be surgically drained by inserting a tube into his side. Thankfully both the Sheriffs and SJPD abandoned him to be released by the hospital (but didn't of course, lift the charges, he was murdered with charges for his own beating still pending).
- The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department runs: security at the hospital, the Coroners/Medical Examiner's office located therein, the County Jail and provide police for the Santa Clara County District Courts.
- A 2005-2006 Grand Jury investigation cited the single most significant problem with the Santa Clara County Coroners/Medical Examiner's Office being the absence of a qualified Medical Examiner in charge of the department, this is still the case today.
- A 2006 Mercury News Six Part Investigative report entitled "Tainted Trials, Stolen Justice" resulted in the overturning and review of multiple Santa Clara County District Attorney's office cases, and multiple lawsuits against the County, most of which were won.
- By 2011, a judge had ruled that the SJPD and SCCDA's office actively, and regularly colluded in falsifying evidence and crime lab reports, and it was an endemic and repeated behavior. To quote: "The Appellate Court also reinstated [the] claim against the City of San Jose based on evidence SJPD officers routinely created false crime lab reports and there had been other instances where fake reports had been presented in court as genuine."
Antonio & SJSU
How it likely began, Antonio as he had done many times before, walked through the SJSU campus as a shortcut, this time carrying his water bottle, and his daughters pink & purple backpack full of tools and other item. At this time according to the UPD story, someone informed them that there was someone with a knife on campus. This is problematic for a variety of reasons;
1) It is not illegal to carry a knife, be it in a sheath or otherwise, and it is not even suspicious to be carrying one while simply walking from point A to point B, on or off campus. SJSU is a public space, though the University will assert that this is untrue, and claim it is a "closed campus" (it is not, if not legally so, then functionally so). Most especially as shared property such as the Martin Luther King Library, and various other structures are open to the public.
2) According to the UPD's own story, Antonio however was NOT carrying a knife, he was carrying a drywall saw blade (it is still unclear as to whether this was simple a blade itself or attached to a handle). A drywall saw however, is NOT a knife, it has a significantly serrated edge for use in construction. It is a TOOL. And it is 100% legal to carry a tool, but furthermore the entirety of SJSU campus is filled with construction workers, carrying tools. There is no less than three major construction projects going on, throughout the downtown campus, including a massive expansion and renovation of the SJSU student center. Thus interaction between construction workers and students is a regular occurrence, and large portions of the campus are fenced off as construction sites.
3) Witnesses to the shooting say; "There was no knife."
This begs the following question: Why was Antonio even approached in the first place? Most especially as he no longer presented any threat (real or imagined) to anyone on campus, and was now in a residential community.
Antonio had LEFT the campus, and was on/near the intersection of 8th Street and San Salvador (we encourage you to Google Earth the area), in a residential neighborhood when according to the UPD (and now SJPD), Officer Frits van der Hoek stopped him, engaged with him and discovered he spoke limited English (has anyone asked if either of the officers spoke Spanish? No.), then things supposedly escalated. Standard procedure for all police stops requires the calling up of a back up officer, it is this second officer Sgt. Mike Santos that would fatally shoot Antonio in the back, twice, one of them through his heart. A recent March, 19 on campus incident of a supposed "man with a knife" in which Santos was involved, also began with all the officers responding with guns drawn. Again, there was no knife, and yet the man was still taken into custody.
According to eyewitnesses, on February 21, contrary to police claims, they saw no discussion take place between Antonio and any UPD officer, nor did they hear any orders given to drop anything, in any language. Nonetheless, it is clear that Antonio did indeed drop his backpack. According to the Mortician, when they saw the body, they had to partially reconstruct Antonio's face, and "stuff" the body, in order to give it bulk as the exit wounds and autopsy had essentially exploded his chest, they had been told the damage to his face was a result of the body falling face first into the street after being shot. However, there is no way of determining if such injury is postmortem or not actually. Again while some witnesses say Antonio was simply walking, others say he was running, but none say he was charging or presented himself as a danger to anyone, let alone a police officer.
According to the UPD officers claims, Antonio (a pacifist) brandished a knife (drywall saw), forcing the UPD officer 'to discharge his taser at range' but it was ineffective (i.e. the officer fired the taser and missed), twice. Santos claims Antonio then charged Van der Hoek, so he shot him, in the back, twice, in order to defend his partner. But one must wonder, how does a bullet that according to some accounts 'went through Antonio's body into a second story window', not represent an equally lethal danger to Officer Van der Hoek, who according to Santos would have had to have been standing in front of both Santos and Antonio in the line of fire as he shot him in the back? How is this not "more" lethal than an imaginary knife? Why would you discharge a firearm in a seemingly arbitrary direction, knowing that there is a Childcare Center full of children also directly in the line of fire?
Some witnesses say that they saw Antonio running, that in fact there was no officer in front of him, that he appeared to be running away from something, and that they did not even see an officer nearby, in front of, or behind Antonio at all, but heard shooting (three shots) and then saw Antonio stumble and fall. Due to the severity of Antonio's wounds he was likely dead before he hit the ground. He was shot through the heart. In the news media, of the dozen or so witnesses, on the short narrow two way street, none were interviewed, only a 13 year old girl who herself said she didn't know what was going on, nor did she know she was in any kind of danger, and her mother who wasn't even in the area at the time of the shooting was also interviewed. The young woman and the mother didn't 'know she was in danger', because, she wasn't, and she was naively coached, and put right in front of the cameras almost immediately, to set a particular story into motion. No adults, nor student witnesses were interviewed, and put on the news, why is that? To this day, there are still direct eyewitnesses who have yet to be interviewed. Why? Yet, supposedly the SJPD has already closed the case, and labeling it a "Justifiable Homicide".
After the SJPD took over the case as per the Memorandum of Understanding between the City of San Jose, the SJPD and the University Police (UPD), Laurie Valdez, Antonio's widow spoke to the lead investigator of the homicide. Laurie desperately wanted to see justice done as she has family members both past and present who have worked in law enforcement, she begged the lead investigator to do it right and make Antonio's case a priority. In order to address her concerns with any malfeasance the lead Investigator had to assure her, and said; "Don't worry. There won't be anything done wrong. We don't play favorites. And I don't know anyone at UPD except for one person - the Sergeant. There will be no problems." The "Sergeant" is the officer that shot Antonio, twice, in the back - Sgt. Michael "Mike" Santos.
But what of Officer Van der Hoek, why hasn't he spoken up publicly in defense of Mike Santos' version of the story, or even made a single statement about having felt endangered by Antonio? If he were standing in front of Antonio, in danger, why didn't he use his own firearm and defended himself, shooting Antonio in the chest as he was charged? Perhaps the silence has to do with the fact that Frits Van der Hoek, used to be a Law Clerk in the DA's Office and is scheduled to graduate from Santa Clara University with a Juris Doctorate in Law this very year, and has in fact already accepted a job with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, which he is scheduled to start in the Fall of 2014. Do you think those engaged in an active murder conspiracy will make good public servants for the SCCDA?
To date, Laurie does not have a coroners or police report from any agency, and in fact the University President was informed of Antonio's identity and death before anyone in his family was, and some in the media were informed the case is already closed. They haven't even returned a single phone call to Laurie. All incidents and "police reports" produced by the UPD are submitted to the County's District Attorney's Office for further investigation or prosecution. Wait, whose supposed to work there again? A CSU University President, is in fact, by law, the head of his campus police department, while the Chief manages it. In this case the UPD Chief of Police Peter Decena, is an SJSU alumni, a UPD alumni, a retired SJPD Officer and a "double dipper". A double dipper, is one of the (thus far) over two dozen SJPD officers who retired at the age of 50 at full pension, only to get a second ranking officer position at another police department or agency, at full pay, while still collecting their full retirement pension. These officers individually and unanimously make over $300,000+ in combined salary and retirement benefits a year as a result of their "double dipping". Needless to say, Chief Decena hasn't been the most vocal or critical about the investigation either. But why would all these peace officers who are supposed to "protect and serve" be so dishonorable, and cover for one another, so regularly? Is it just that cliched "blue wall of silence", or perhaps something more?
San Jose State & The Police
SJSU has the oldest accredited degree offering (undergraduate, and graduate) program for police in the entire country, it began in 1930. San Jose University literally established the very foundations of modern formal police training. As a result, the city of San Jose, Santa Clara County and the CSU system (the founding campus of which is SJSU) prefer if not require university educated and degreed personnel as a prerequisite for a job on their respective police forces, this is why no less than six south bay campuses have degree certified programs in policing and police related fields. To put it more simply, all these local cops are graduates of SJSU and are more often campus and UPD alumni.
The SJSU Justice Studies department is currently under investigation for financial malfeasance, moral turpitude, and the policing side of Justice Studies itself is being criticized for its lack of any form of academic rigor, cultural literacy, or scholarly value. While elsewhere in the sub-department of Criminology which is housed in SJSUs Sociology department, they have simultaneously been outted by local activists for their direct connection to and complicity with the overt militarization of policing in California, the United States, and more particular direct collusion with COINTELPRO an illegal series of Counter Intelligence programs targeting political activists from the 1950s to the present day, with the intended aim of repressing political dissent. This relationship has existed since as far back as 1964, but "Red Squads" have existed in the SJPD since at least the 1930s, before they formalized their Intelligence Division in the late 1970s.
Justice For Josiah
Josiah, is here. Antonio is not. There is no Justice for Antonio, he is a victim of Social Homicide by a Police Industrial Complex many years in the making. Josiah, is still here, his family is still here, his community is still here, for him. We strive for San Jose and a world in which no more Antonio Lopez's must die to police and structural violence, that only wants to see him incarcerated or in a grave.
***If you have any evidence or information on the murder of Antonio, please contact us via private facebook message, phone or email (addresses and numbers still pending)***
Justice For Josiah, March 19, 2014
Justice For Josiah