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Killing Of Latino Journalist To Be Scrutinized

LOS ANGELES - "Reversing his previous decision, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said Tuesday that he was directing his staff to determine what records might be released regarding former Times columnist and KMEX-TV News Director Ruben Salazar, who was slain by a deputy in 1970," Robert J. Lopezreported Wednesday for the Los Angeles Times.

"On Monday, Baca said he was denying a request by The Times for records that might shed light on the circumstances involving the newsman's slaying, in part because he lacked the resources to review the eight boxes of files.

"The killing, which occurred during a riot after a massive anti-Vietnam war rally in East Los Angeles, left a wound that has yet to heal 40 years later and has caused many to question whether Salazar was targeted.

“The Sheriff's Department has said the slaying was a tragic accident and that the deputy was operating under emergency conditions when he fired a tear-gas missile into the Silver Dollar bar, where Salazar and a KMEX reporter were taking a break from covering the action on Aug. 29, 1970.”

As the University of Arizona wrote in 2008, when a postage stamp was issued in Salazar's honor, "Salazar is recognized as a boundary-breaking pioneer. Mario T. Garcia, a Salazar biographer, lists him as the first Latino to work for the El Paso Herald Post, the first Latino journalist to cross into mainstream English-language journalism, the first Latino journalist to work as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and the first Latino journalist to become a foreign correspondent, having reported from the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Vietnam. His work was most influential when he became the first Latino journalist to have a column in a major English-language newspaper, the Los Angeles Times."

Parks, schools, libraries and scholarships across the country have been named in honor of Salazar, the Times noted. The Rubén Salazar Scholarship Fund, has been awarded since 1987 by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists to help boost the number of Latinos in newsrooms. "For journalists of color, Salazar is a symbol of the need to push for diversity in the mainstream media and accurate coverage of Latino issues," NAHJ said.

The Times story Wednesday continued, "Baca's decision came as the Board of Supervisors, responding to an article in The Times about the documents, ordered county attorneys to prepare a report by next week to determine whether the records are public and what the costs would be to review them.

"Baca spokesman Steve Whitmore said the sheriff changed his mind because he wants to have all the facts before deciding whether the records will be released. The sheriff is going to examine all the options and let the analysis of the documents go forward," Whitmore said.

"In an interview, one of Salazar's daughters urged the department to release the records to help bring closure.

" 'It's been 40 long years,' said Lisa Salazar Johnson, who was 9 when her father died. 'I'd like to get an answer to why he's not here and why I had to grow up without a father.' 

 

The Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education | 663 Thirteenth St., Suite 200, Oakland, CA 94612 | (510) 891-9202 

 



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