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The Death of Ruben Salazar: After 40 Years It’s Time to Come Clean

Writing a special guest blog post for LA Observed
, my pal, the award-winning former LA Times editor and reporter, Frank Sotomayor, calls for the release of all the unredacted files pertaining to the death of well-known LA journalist Ruben Salazar, who died on August 29, 1970—40 years ago this weekend.

Sotomayor wants to know why, after all this time, has the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department still declined to release to the press the eight boxes of department materials relating to Salazar’s case?

It is an important question that demands an answer. What possible reason can there be to stonewall after four decades? No issues of national security are at stake. If the files show wrongdoing on the part of law enforcement figures, so be it; all the more reason the paperwork on the case should see the light of day. If those boxes full of material reveal that Salazar’s death was simply a tragic accident, that too needs to be known so that long-held suspicions that he was deliberately targeted may be laid to rest.

Below you’ll find the beginning of Sotomayor’s essay. . But read the whole thing because it is loaded with back story and context that is an essential part of LA’s history.

Two Mexican cousins are killed by Los Angeles police in a case of mistaken identity. A prominent journalist is cautioned by two LAPD officers about his coverage of the shootings. A short time later, the journalist meets with staffers of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and tells them he is being followed. He gives his Rolodex of news sources to a colleague and clears his desk. Days later, at the age of 42, he is dead. Killed by a 10-inch-long tear-gas projectile fired by a Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputy.

Is this the plot for a crime thriller? It could be. But it is just part of the tragic mystery surrounding Ruben Salazar. The Los Angeles Times columnist and KMEX news director was killed 40 years ago Sunday under very disturbing circumstances. Law enforcement officials had a chance to resolve the matter at that time but dropped the ball. A new generation of law enforcement officials now has a chance to come clean by releasing all records relating to the case. For the sake of history and transparency, they must not fumble this opportunity….


Earlier this month, in an editorial, the LA Times also called for the release of the Salazar files.

In truth, we should all be asking for the release of these files—and asking loudly.

Photo by photographer Raul Ruiz, was reportedly taken of an unidentified officer just seconds before Deputy Tom Wilson shot the projectile that would hit and kill Ruban Salazar, who was reportedly sitting on a bar stool behind the three men in the bar’s doorway.


  • “A new generation of law enforcement officials now has a chance to come clean by releasing all records relating to the case. For the sake of history and transparency, they must not fumble this opportunity…” – Frank Sotomayor.

    You said it, hombre.

  • The death of Salazar was tragic but all commentators (intentionally?) omit the circumstances of his death, which make insinuations that he was assassinated laughable. He was killed at a distance by a tear gas grenade fired into a darkened bar. The L.A. Times columnist was resting in the Silver Dollar Bar in Whittier after a Vietnam War protest became violent.
    According to a witness “Ruben Salazar had just sat down to sip a quiet beer at the bar, away from the madness in the street, when a deputy—ignoring the pleas of a woman outside who begged him not to shoot— fired a projectile into the interior dimness of the bar, killing Salazar instantly.” The sheriff’s deputy fired fired a 10-inch wall-piercing type of tear gas projectile used for barricaded situations, not one of the type of similar shape, color and size designed to be fired directly at people (which produce a cloud of smoke).

    You can barely hit the broad side of a barn with a tear gas round, about the size and shape of a dildo, much less target anyone with it. The deputy just f**ked up and grabbed the wrong type of round. From this experience they started labeling these rounds differently so it wouldn’t happen again.

    Which is not meant to diminish the loss of Mr. Salazar at all.

  • Truth, you make great points. But why do you call yourself truth? Is it to imply others who’ve commented on this topic are lying? Should I have just called myself, “lie”?

    Anyhow, I like that quote in Inglorious Basterds, when he says that facts can be so misleading, while rumors, true or false, are often revealing. Of course, he was a Nazi.

  • And I’m no fan of Nazis, especially after the Rodney King and Rampart scandals. Kidding. Kidding. Down Sure Fire. Down. Call off your dogs, Glen Beck. Call them off!!!!

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