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Four Decades Later, the City Still Won't Apologize for Santos Rodriguez's Murder

Santos Rodriguez
Santos Rodriguez

Yesterday marked 40 years since Dallas police officer Darrell Cain handcuffed 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez in a squad car and shot him in the head while trying to force him to confess to stealing a few bucks from a vending machine. Rodriguez's death sparked outrage, which ultimately prompted significant reforms to the Dallas Police Department. What it never yielded was a formal apology from the city.

For the family, friends, and activists who gathered Wednesday by Rodriguez's grave at South Dallas' Oakland Cemetery, Cain's five-year murder sentence and a 20-year-old declaration of July 24, 1993 as Santos Rodriguez Day aren't enough. They want Dallas to say it's sorry.

"I just want to reiterate how necessary it is for this apology to happen for this family," Rick Halperin, the head of SMU's human rights program and a co-organizer of the memorial, told the mourners. "Not only so this family can go forward in peace and dignity but so this city can move forward."

See also

-40 Years Ago, a Dallas Cop Shot a Handcuffed 12-Year-Old in the Head. Hispanic Leaders Haven't Forgotten.

Contacted by The Dallas Morning News, city spokesman Frank Librio sent a copy of the 1993 resolution. Halperin called the response "inept" and "pathetic."

We can only speculate as to why the city refuses to say its sorry, which would be a simple thing. Maybe it feels the 1993 resolution, which pledges to never let something similar happen again, is enough. Maybe it's that an apology would suggest that Rodriguez's death was the fault of city policy rather than a rogue cop. Whatever the case, the answer is still a chilly "No."

That's a bit like salt on the wound for Bessie Rodriguez, Santos' mother. "I am left with a deep emptiness way down in my soul," she said at yesterday's service, according to WFAA. "I don't sleep at night. I have dreams of him playing outside with my other children."


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