City Hall

A Statue of Santos Rodriguez, Shot and Killed by a Dallas Cop in 1973, Is Now Coming to Pike Park

Pictured is David Rodriguez, 13, and his brother Santos in 1973, only months before Santos was murdered by a Dallas police officer.
Pictured is David Rodriguez, 13, and his brother Santos in 1973, only months before Santos was murdered by a Dallas police officer. Courtesy of Santos Rodriguez Coalition
Before he was shot and killed by a Dallas Police officer nearly five decades ago, Santos Rodriguez would play at Pike Park. In 1973, the 12-year-old Mexican-American boy, along with his older brother, were picked up by police who suspected they robbed a vending machine.

One of the cops tried coaxing Rodriguez into a confession with a Russian-roulette interrogation, even though the boys said they had nothing to do with the robbery. The second time the cop pulled the trigger of his revolver, he sent a bullet through Rodriguez’s head, killing him instantly.

Darrell Cain, the now-deceased officer who killed Rodriguez, was later convicted of murder in a criminal trial but only spent two and a half years in prison. People still shout Rodriguez's name at protests against police brutality all these years later. This weekend, the city of Dallas will memorialize Rodriguez with a six-foot statue at one of his last playgrounds: Pike Park.

City Council member Jesse Moreno has fought to memorialize Rodriguez in Dallas for years. As a member of the Parks and Recreation Board, Moreno got the recreation center at Pike Park renamed after Rodriguez. He’s also been a driving force behind the new statue.

“After nearly 50 years following the murder of #SantosRodriguez, we will forever memorialize Santos with the dedication of a statue in his likeness,” Moreno said in a post on Twitter.

The statue will be unveiled during a ceremony at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the park. Moreno said it will be a historic day and that Mayor Eric Johnson will attend.
click to enlarge This is an early rendering of Dallas' Santos Rodriguez memorial. - CITY OF DALLAS
This is an early rendering of Dallas' Santos Rodriguez memorial.
City of Dallas

People gathered at Oakland Cemetery in July to observe the 48th anniversary of the boy’s murder. Bessie Rodriguez, his mother who’s now in her late '70s, was there and received a formal apology from the Dallas Police chief.

“We must apologize as a police department, a department made up of mothers, fathers, daughters and sons,” Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said. “On behalf of the Dallas Police Department, as a father, I am sorry. We are sorry that someone trusted to protect you, someone who wore the same uniform I proudly wear today took your son and took David’s brother away by way of murder.”

That same month, the Santos Rodriguez statue was sent to a foundry in Arlington, where it would be cast in bronze before being sent to Pike Park.

The city commissioned the statue to local sculptor Seth Vandable, who has worked on other public art installations in Dallas. The statue depicts Rodriguez with three other figures beneath him, reaching out and interlocking arms with each other.

Hadi Jawad, executive director of the Dallas Peace and Justice Center, helped form the Santos Rodriguez Coalition to support renaming the convention center and building the new statue. He told the Observer that over the years, Bessie Rodriguez has fought to ensure her son isn’t forgotten.

Jawad said, “All of these markers in the city are a good way to give Bessie what she requested, which is that the city never forgets her son.”
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn