By R. Zamora / La Voz Es Fuerza
There were 155 officer-involved shootings from 2005-2015 in San Diego and they have all been deemed justified by the District Attorney’s office.
On July 5, 2017, Christopher Villanueva, a San Diego Sheriff’s Deputy fired 16 hollow-point bullets at my unarmed cousin, Jonathon Coronel. According to the medical examiner’s report, he had 22 gunshot wounds on his very slim body. Hollow point bullets expand upon entering the tissue and cause more pain. Jonathon was tortured to death. He was willing to comply with the law.
The witness at the scene of his murder stated that Jonathon was already on the ground surrendered and shirtless to prove he was unarmed. However, even that blatant form of compliance did not stop Deputy Villanueva from executing him in such a monstrous way. I’ve cried every single day since his death and, alongside his family and other victims’ families of police brutality, have demanded justice for his murder.
As if finding out that a loved one was brutally slaughtered to death wasn’t painful enough, the villainization of his character and condoning of that violence by Interim District Attorney Summer Stephans added salt to our wounds. In March 2018, eight months after his murder, Summer Stephans held a press conference regarding Jonathon’s case and ruled the Deputy’s violence justified.
She did not notify Jonathon’s family of her decision, nor of the press conference she was going to have. During her press conference, she invented lies about Jonathon and associated him with crimes he had never been involved in. It was convenient for her to vilify an unarmed human being after a Sheriff’s Deputy created 22 gunshot wounds on his body.
Jonathon Cornonel was never convicted of a violent crime. Jonathon Coronel was a loving father who wanted to create a better future for his 3-year-old daughter. It was also convenient for her to lessen her question time by lumping his case in a press conference with three other unrelated cases of police killings, all of which she also deemed justified. It was as if these victims were not worthy of her time or compassion, and as if justifying their murders was just another business-as-usual-transaction.
Summer Stephans chose to protect Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Villanueva, an officer with a history of violence. Villanueva not only shot my unarmed and surrendered cousin 22 times, he also shot Sergio Weick 17 times just 11 months prior to killing Jonathon.
Alfred Olango’s family stood with us when we watched her completely demonize my cousin. They shared that they went through the same process when Alfred Olango was murdered. The District Attorney at that time, Bonnie Dumanis, who appointed Summer Stephans to be her successor, villanized Alfred Olango and justified his execution.
Summer Stephans has been recorded at candidate forums saying that the families of people who have been killed by the police do not care about having their killers prosecuted. Not only is that completely disrespectful to the victims’ families, it clearly shows how out of touch she is with San Diegans. I have met and worked with the families of Sergio Weick, Alfred Olango, and James Lacy, all men of color that were killed by the police.
All of their families are demanding that the officers who killed their loved ones be held accountable to the law, just as any regular murderer would. Summer Stephans and Sheriff Bill Gore, who heads the Sheriff’s department and has allowed this violence to continue under his leadership, have shown us those police officers are above the law and that they do not care about victims.
As long as police officers are not held accountable to the law they will continue to reject de-escalation tactics and kill people of color as a first response. Just this week my friend’s uncle, Raul Rivera, was murdered by the police in Imperial Beach. At his vigil witnesses stated that he was shot 20-30 times. Police brutality is an ongoing issue San Diegan communities of color are grappling with.
I have seen Stephan’s campaign flyers (many of which are paid for by the Deputy Sheriff’s Association of San Diego County) and she likes to flaunt her years of experience in the District Attorney’s office, yet that experience consists of condoning police brutality.
There were 155 officer-involved shootings from 2005-2015 in San Diego and they have all been deemed justified by the District Attorney’s office. Summer Stephans and Sheriff Bill Gore want to continue their legacy of endorsing police brutality by being elected as the permanent District Attorney and Sheriff this June 5, 2018.
A vote for Summer Stephans and Sheriff Bill Gore is an endorsement of violence against Black and brown people. A vote for them is a vote against women who are now single mothers because they lost their partners to police violence. It’s assuring the continuation of entire communities facing trauma and terror from police brutality. It’s a complete disregard of the parents who worry that their sons or daughters may be killed by the police even if they comply. A vote for them is an endorsement of the violation of our constitutional rights of due process and the right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.
I will never get my cousin back but I can do everything in my power to ensure the public safety of Black and Brown people and that includes being an informed voter and voting this June 5th. Our lives are at stake in this election.