City Hall

Take a Look at Dallas’ New Santos Rodriguez Memorial

David Rodriguez, 13, and his brother, Santos, in 1973, only months before Santos was murdered by a Dallas police officer.
David Rodriguez, 13, and his brother, Santos, in 1973, only months before Santos was murdered by a Dallas police officer. Santos Vive
Forty-six years ago, Dallas Police Department Officer Darrell Cain murdered Santos Rodriguez. Dallas is finally getting closer to building a permanent memorial to the slain 12-year-old.

Cain killed Rodriguez in the back of a police car on July 24, 1973. He'd picked up the preteen, along with his brother David Rodriguez, because he believed they might have been involved in a gas station burglary near the Rodriguez's home in the neighborhood that was then known as Little Mexico. Hoping to get a confession, Cain played Russian roulette with the boys, eventually shooting Santos Rodriguez in the head. A Dallas County jury convicted Cain of murder in 1977.

Rodriguez's killer spent only 2½ years in prison, half of the five-year sentence given to him by the jury. Reckoning with the murder took Dallas much longer.

It took more than 40 years for another Dallas cop — Roy Oliver in August 2018 — to be convicted of murdering someone while on duty and a couple of months longer than that for the city to officially honor Rodriguez by naming the Pike Park recreation center after him in October.

Thursday, the Dallas Park Board signed off on almost $60,000 in city bond funds for the installation of a statue dedicated to Rodriguez. The memorial, slated to stand 8 feet tall and featuring a likeness of Rodriguez as a child "ris(ing) above bronze stylized figures that are not portraits and do not represent specific individuals," will have a place of pride in the park on Harry Hines Boulevard.

Here's what it looks like: 
Dallas' forthcoming Santos Rodriguez memorial
City of Dallas
When the statue goes up — right now, the project is expected to be completed in 2021 — it will sit near the recreation center. Park Board members said that they hope money can be found to fix up that building as well.

"It's been a long road, but it's funny how timing plays a role. I couldn't think of a better time for this to happen," Park Board member Jesse Moreno said. "As you all know, a couple of months ago, we designated the former Pike Park recreation center in honor of Santos ... This is, again, one step going forward in the whole movement. We will have the installation of this art piece next, followed by, I hope, restoring the Santos recreation center so we can open it up to our community."

While Park Board approval was the biggest hurdle left to clear toward the eventual construction of the statue, it still requires a City Council rubber stamp. That's expected to come later this month.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young