Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Records on the Investigation of the Homicide of Ruben Salazar
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Scope and Content
Materials relating to the National Chicano Moratorium march and rally in East Los Angeles, August 29, 1970, include the parade permit and correspondence, notes of meetings with parade organizers, including Rosalio Munoz, LASD operational plans, radio car logs, maps of the parade route and maps of major incidents, intelligence collected by the LASD on radical groups and individuals participating in the march, copies of “inflammatory” flyers, issues of Chicano newspapers, and of the L.A Times, gathered before and after the march. Also in the files are materials on the aftermath – the transcript of the press conference by KMEX-TV’s General Manager, Danny Villanueva, numerous complaint reports from businesses and individuals who suffered damages during the rioting, local radio and television news editorials, and citizens’ correspondence sent to Sheriff Peter Pitchess in response to the events on August 29, 1970.
Materials relating to the investigation of the homicide of Ruben Salazar include the investigation “books” with reports by Homicide detectives, summaries by the LASD of the 16-day Coroner’s inquest proceedings, documents provided to the United States Attorney General, the Coroner’s autopsy report, interviews and statements from numerous witnesses, including a manuscript statement by Deputy Thomas Wilson, who fired the tear gas projectile that killed Salazar, a drawing of the interior of the Silver Dollar Café, a report of the LASD tear gas field tests, a tear gas training manual, teletypes and telegrams, evidence tags, field notes, photographic evidence (negatives and photographs) and taped interviews of witnesses (reel-to-reel) and taped radio car transmissions. The files also include a copy of the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review’s report on the homicide investigation (2011) and the LASD’s digital copies of the files (2011).
- Creation: 1970 - 1974
- Creation: 1998
- Creation: 2011 - 2012
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1970 - 1971
- Los Angeles County (Calif.). Sheriff's Department (Corporate Entity)
- Los Angeles County (Calif.). Office of Coroner (Corporate Entity)
Although most documents are in English, some items in the Intelligence and Inflammatory series and in the newspapers in the oversized box are in Spanish.
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Rights Statement for Archival Description
Finding aid description and metadata are licensed under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.
At the time of the August 29, 1970, National Moratorium March, Ruben Salazar was a highly respected columnist for the Los Angeles Times and news director for KMEX-TV, Los Angeles' first Spanish language station. In 1959 he had joined the Los Angeles Times as a reporter, becoming the first Latino journalist in the US to work for an elite mainstream newspaper. In 1963 he wrote an award-winning series on "Spanish-speaking Angelenos," addressing much needed educational reforms and other civil rights injustices in the Mexican American community. From 1965 to 1968, Salazar was assigned to the L.A. Times' foreign desk, he spent time in Vietnam covering the war, and held the coveted position of L.A. Times' Mexico City Bureau Chief, covering many Latin America countries. In June 1968, the L.A, Times called him back unexpectedly to Los Angeles to cover what they saw as a "new Mexican-American uproar..." at home. (Letter from the Times foreign editor Bob Gibson to Salazar, June 13, 1968, in the Ruben Salazar papers) During that year there were many high school student walkouts, or "blowouts," in East Los Angeles. The L.A.Times possibly viewed Salazar as the journalist on their staff who could best cover these events. He and his family soon returned to California. On the day of his death he was covering the Moratorium march for the Times and for KMEX-TV. During the afternoon he and a Times photographer, one of the key witnesses, took a break from the chaos in the street and entered the Silver Dollar bar. There are still many unanswered questions about the events that day that may never be resolved. What is known for certain is that Salazar was killed instantly when he was struck by a tear gas projectile fired into the café by Deputy Thomas Wilson. As the Office of Independent Review concludes in their report "It was not an era of openness and public transparency. The Sheriff's Department … offered few explanations and no apologies. That posture fueled the skeptics." (OIR Review, p. 17)
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Records on the Investigation of the Homicide of Ruben Salazar contain historical documents dealing with the homicide investigation of the circumstances of journalist Ruben Salazar's death and extensive materials about the National Chicano Moratorium March, among the largest anti-Vietnam War protests in Los Angeles, held on August 29, 1970. Included are documents on the planning and events leading up to that day, information on the organizers, intelligence on radical groups and participants of the march, and the tragic conclusion. By the end of the day, the march that began peacefully at Belvedere Park in East Los Angeles had become a full-blown riot near Laguna Park, with extensive damages, many arrests, complaint reports, and three deaths, including Salazar’s at the Silver Dollar bar. Following the homicide investigation, there was a 16-day televised Coroner's inquest, one of the longest and most costly in Los Angeles' history. When it concluded, District Attorney Evelle Younger issued a statement indicating among other things that he would not pursue criminal charges against Deputy Wilson, who had fired the tear gas projectile that killed Salazar. Sheriff Peter Pitchess followed with a statement indicating there had been no misconduct by any of the deputies involved in the shooting or during the riot. Salazar’s wife Sally filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the County of Los Angeles and was awarded damages. The case was considered closed and the files were inaccessible for forty years. In 2011 the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review (OIR), at the request of the Los Angeles County Sheriff, produced a special report after a careful examination of the files. The OIR's Review, many Public Record Acts requests for access in 2010, on the fortieth anniversary of Salazar’s death, media coverage, and a lawsuit by MALDEF, eventually led to the opening of the files.
From 1965 to 1970 there had been an increasing number of Vietnam War protests in many U.S cities, especially on college and university campuses. As the war continued new groups joined the antiwar movement including women, veterans, African Americans, and Chicanos. The National Chicano Moratorium was organized by the Chicano Moratorium Committee and the Congress for Mexican American Unity, a group of Chicano activists. It was unique because it was among the few ethnic antiwar movements in the U.S --part of the newly evolving Chicano movement as well as the anti-Vietnam War movement. The main concern of the Chicano Moratorium organizers was the disproportionate number of Chicanos and other Latinos or Hispanics who were being drafted and killed in Vietnam. They promoted antiwar demonstrations by Chicanos in California, the Southwest and other parts of the United States from November, 1969 to August, 1971.
1970 marked a high point of Chicano discontent with the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. As the files indicate, in the months leading up to the East Los Angeles National Moratorium march on August 29, there were numerous Chicano antiwar marches, rallies and student protests in California. Only a week before the August 29th march in East Los Angeles, Chicanos had marched in protest in many cities throughout the U.S. Within this context, it is not surprising that the march in East Los Angeles on August 29th attracted, as the L.A. Times reported, an estimated 20,000 demonstrators. In 1980, Times columnist Frank del Olmo, on the tenth anniversary of Salazar’s death, claimed it was the "largest Mexican American demonstration ever held in this country." As documents in the collection show, attendance at previous Chicano marches numbered one or two thousand at most, and had been conducted peacefully, without major incidents. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department based their preparations on previous experience and predicted in a report that this march would be similar to previous marches.
9.8 Linear Feet (10 boxes )
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department's Records on the Investigation of the Homicide of Ruben Salazar contain documents maintained by the Sheriff's Department for more than forty years pertaining to preparations for, and responses to, the National Chicano Moratorium march and rally, among the largest anti-Vietnam War protests in Los Angeles, held on August, 29, 1970, in East Los Angeles. Also documented is the tragic aftermath--the ensuing riot, significant damages, complaints about the forced clearing of the rally in Laguna Park by Sheriff's deputies, and three deaths, including that of the highly respected Los Angeles Times columnist and KMEX-TV's news director Ruben Salazar. He and a colleague, one of the witnesses, were covering the Moratorium march, but took refuge from the chaos at the Silver Dollar bar. Salazar was killed instantly when he was struck by a tear gas projectile fired into the café by Deputy Thomas Wilson. A major portion of the collection contains the investigation into Salazar's untimely and still controversial death. Two other less extensive investigations cover the death of a teenage member of the Brown Berets, apparently from an explosion during the riot, and a deputy-involved shooting of a man who allegedly drove his vehicle directly at deputies. Although most of the documents are in English, some items are in Spanish.
The collection is organized in these series and subseries: Homicide Investigation; Interviews, Statements, and Supplementary Reports; Diaz/Lara Investigation; Lynn Ward Investigation; Chicano Moratorium March; Chicano Moratorium March--Complaint Reports; Chicano Moratorium March—Parade Operational Plans; Chicano Moratorium March—Operational Logs; Intelligence and Inflammatory Literature; Coroner’s Inquest; Civil Suit: Sally Salazar vs. County of Los Angeles; Miscellaneous Items; Audio Visual--Photographs and Negatives; Audio Visual—Audio tapes; Audio Visual--Sheriff's digital files; and Oversized items.
The collection was received by the USC Libraries on special loan agreement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department on October 23, 2012.
The collection was organized and edited by Barbara Robinson. Assistance in data entry for this collection was provided by Luiz Eduardo Leonardi.
- Villanueva, Danny -- Archives (Person)
- Munoz, Rosalio -- Archives (Person)
- Los Angeles County (Calif.). Office of Coroner -- Archives (Corporate Entity)
- Salazar, Ruben, 1928-1970 -- Archives (Person)
- Los Angeles County (Calif.). Sheriff's Department -- Archives (Corporate Entity)
- Los Angeles County (Calif.). Office of Independent Review -- Archives (Corporate Entity)
- Pitchess, Peter J. -- Archives (Person)
- Congress of Mexican American Unity -- Archives (Corporate Entity)
- Silver Dollar Cafe (East Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Archives (Corporate Entity)
- Younger, Evelle J. -- Archives (Person)
- National Chicano Moratorium. East Los Angeles. 1970 -- Archives (Corporate Entity)
- Ward, Lynn -- Archives (Person)
- Wilson, Thomas H., Deputy -- Archives (Person)
- Salazar, Sally (Person)
- Diaz, Angel G. -- Archives (Person)
Genre / Form
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- Interviews (Sound recordings)
- Legal documents
- Logs (records)
- Negatives (photographic)
- Press releases
- Printed ephemera
- East Los Angeles (Calif.) -- History -- Archival resources
- Laguna Park (East Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Archival resources
- Los Angeles County (Calif.) -- History -- 20th century -- Archival resources
- Los Angeles County (Calif.) -- Politics and government -- Archival resources
- Finding aid for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's records on the Investigation of the Homicide of Ruben Salazar
- Publish Basic
- Barbara J. Robinson
- 2014 January
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 2017 July: Revised and edited by Barbara Robinson
- 2021 November: Finding aid updated by Bo Doub to include an accrual to the collection containing Jesús Treviño's copy of the coroner's inquest (accrual no. 2021-078).
Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository
Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States