Report: Deputies’ Mistakes Led To Iconic Journalist’s Death

LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies didn’t target a Los Angeles Times journalist who was shot in the head with a tear gas missile 41 years ago, but made mistakes that led to his death, according to a draft report by a civilian watchdog agency.

Ruben Salazar, a former Times columnist and KMEX-TV news director, became a key figure in the Mexican-American civil rights movement after his death during an anti-Vietnam War rally, with parks, schools and even a U.S. Postal Service stamp named for him.

The 20-page report from the Office of Independent Review was obtained by the Times and detailed in a Sunday story. It was the first outside examination of sheriff’s records of the hotly disputed killing.

The independent review was ordered by Sheriff Lee Baca in August after the newspaper pressed him to unseal the Salazar files. The report was scheduled to be released Tuesday.

It found deputies used poor tactics at the rally where Salazar died in 1970, and that the department’s stonewalling afterward fueled skepticism. The reporter was in a bar covering a demonstration against the disproportionate number of Latinos being killed at the time in the Vietnam War. A deputy at the rally fired a tear gas missile, hitting and killing Salazar at age 42.

The Times said the report, which provided unreleased details about the case, did not assign blame or wrongdoing. Its goal was to review a historic incident from the perspective of modern-day policing and current department policies and procedures.

The report noted that its conclusions were limited on the key issue in Salazar’s death — whether he was a victim of a plot by authorities — because detectives at the time refused to consider theories that the newsman was killed intentionally. As a result, they failed to ask questions that might have prevented the speculation and conspiracy theories that still overshadow the case.

“The failure to focus on any aspects of the incident beyond the immediate question of how Mr. Salazar died and the lack of any subsequent internal review by the department, however, left many questions unanswered and opened the door for decades of speculation about what the department may have been trying to hide,” the report said.

The sheriff’s department “circled the wagons around its deputies, offered few explanations and no apologies” in the aftermath of Salazar’s death, the report stated. “That posture fueled the skeptics.”

The department had concluded its investigation finding no wrongdoing by its deputies.

Even by the policing standards of the 1970s, the deputy’s use of the tear gas missile seemed “contrary to (the) department training,” the report found.

In the weeks before he was killed, Salazar was investigating allegations of misconduct by Los Angeles police and sheriff’s deputies. The journalist had told friends that he thought he was being followed by authorities and feared they might do something to discredit his reporting.

In the end, the watchdog concluded, Salazar simply may have been in the “wrong place at the wrong time” as deputies clashed with protesters on Whittier Boulevard after riots broke out during an explosive anti-war rally.

Stephanie Salazar Cook, the newsman’s daughter, said Sunday that “the report ultimately asks more questions than it answers.” She called on Baca to publicly release all records related to her father’s case “so that they can be reviewed at length by historians, lawyers and other experts.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • wnc91567

    kenmandu, pls grow up, learn to spell and finish grammar school before commenting elsewhere

  • Honest Tony

    Cops are usually refered too as the pitbulls of our city. So they usually are all ego driven gun carrying morons. So what would you expects from a cop anyways? If they were intelligent they would choose a career worthy of respect. I hope the Salazar family got some compensation financially and that cop got fired and or jailed.

    • Jeff

      Honest Tony where to start, in 25 years of law enforcement in Los Angeles I have never been called or heard of Police Officers being pitbulls of the City. That must be something you made up. I’m sure you have never known a Police Officer on a personal level. If you had you would know that most Officers have some collage education as high as Masters and Phd’s. Please tell me an occupation that is more worthy of respect as a Police Officer or Fireman, people who daily are willing to put there lives at risk to protect you or your family. What happened here was an accident during a violent protest, while his death is regretable, I doubt those involved had any idea what the race of those involved were.

      • bugman

        you are not one of them,I’ts spelled college

      • armando lawrence

        there are many good meaning cops, i know some and have relatives that are cops….buy don’t forget about cop “associations” like the “vikings” of Lakewood/

  • Brad Norwood

    The usual tactical errors by genocidal cops.
    They use real bullets against defenseless Latino’s and reporters.
    They fear our pepper guts and chili breath, so they use tear gas.
    They fear Latino ideas of freedom and prosperity, so they try to destroy thoughts
    of freedom and civil disobedience with bullets and clubs.
    It will never work. There are more of us than there pig bullets can eradicate.
    We will drown the pigs in beans, rice and tortillas.
    We will knock them out with a massive gas attack of our own.

    • TBJWebmaster

      Brad Norwood

      . . . They fear Latino ideas of freedom and prosperity, so they try to destroy thoughts of freedom and civil disobedience with bullets and clubs. . . .

      How are these Latino ideas working out for you down in Mexico?

    • SARGE

      I for one am glad that they did what they did,i’m just sorry that it was a war protest against What we were doing in Viet Nam (as i am a veteran of that era they were protesting) instead of the illegal mexican immigrant problem that we’ve had since that time.All i have to say to you is,if you’re butt hurt about it just because he was a Mexican-American then you are a sad narrow minded person that needs to forget about your little “reconquista” hidden agenda along with all those who think that way because there are too many like myself that love and are loyal to this The Greatest Country on This Planet The U.S.A.!! All that about there are more of you than there is of us ,that’s why you run from the drug cartels in your own homeland instead of stand and fight and take it back is’nt it Big Tough Mexican Latino?!! I fought for my country,why don’t you go fight for yours??!!

      • J Smith

        This is our homeland bro

  • Lis

    Shouldn’t the title read “Journalist killed…” not “died”…. Interesting, very very interesting

  • Sandra

    That sounds about “right.”

  • krg

    These comments are hilarious considering this is an event that happened 40 years ago..not last week. And it was at an anti-Vietnam war event, not a hispanic event. The mexicans just latched on to it because he was mexican and they have to turn everything into a race thing..even back then apparently.

    • SARGE

      Thank You krg you seem to have a perfect grasp of exactly what i read in that article too.Only,i was in country fighting at that time so all these tough Latinos parents could slip across the border and have their Anchor Babies instead of standing and fighting the corruption and Drug cartels and taking back their own country!! They want to call US racist???I would like to see each and every one of their PAPERS don’t you??

      • Relax

        The fact that you are all part of these tribes is fantastic, but you don’t have the right to be derrogatory simply because you don’t like someone’s opinion!

        You demonstrate no tolerance yet ask for it…don’t be hypocritical–your tribes are respected in many ways in the US. However, this isn’t about tribes, it’s about the human condition and demonstrating compassion, understanding and respect for fellow
        humans. Practice tolerance!

    • armando lawrence

      research more

      • SARGE

        Hey Armando i got some research for ya,i forgot to mention the last time i replied to anything here that not only am i a Veteran,i’m also half Native American Indian. So do you want to go tell all my relatives and all their kin that live on the San Carlos Reservation and a few other Reservations in those areas that their land belongs to Mexico???Oh and while you are at it Go tell the Zuni,Pima Pappago,Hopi (my wife and children are all of this tribe) Apache,Yaqui,and let’s not forget the Chumash who happen to have inhabited the land called the Coast of California that you mexicans for some odd reason claim is yours too,that their land belongs to you and your ancestors and see how well that is recieved.The truth be told (oh no the truth !!) the land belongs to no one but,we Native Americans are supposed to be the caretakers of this (Our Mother Earth)land.Good luck with your research mister bacause our people don’t WRITE our history and your kind and all your politics and petty prejudice have no place within our circle of life!! Take it however you want ,it is what i know to be the truth.

      • SARGE

        Armando,thank you for the background on yourself and please accept my apology(Donati means Brother in my people’s tongue,Don-ah-tee).The point was that the land that the mexican people of today claim was theirs does’nt belong to them nor anyone.You never know we may have sweat in the same lodge at one time or another,or even been at the same pow-wows i have many freinds at the Soboba res,and the Martinez-Torez. Like you i have many Souix and Dine freinds and have listened to my Elders all my life,but for us to side with any one race of people is unthinkable,unless it would be the ones who would stop the selling of poisons to our young,and those who would show that they are respecting our Mother Earth and trying to protect her.

  • John

    For all you clowns out there who don’t like the police who are risking their lives every day to protect you. I suggest you move to Mexico. Where the police are not there to protect you. where thousands of people are murdered every year. If you don’t like it here LEAVE!!!

    • armando lawrence


  • Frank

    Hey “honest” Tony. You have it all wrong. The police protect us from the “ego driven gun carrying morons” that plague Los Angeles. Sounds like you are probably one of them. By the way, next time you are in need of help, you’re not going to call the police for help, right?


    I agree with you John and Frank,I say the same thing,if you don’t like what our cops are doing here and how they are doing it ,i’ll help you pack for your trip to Mexico you clowns.BTW some of those cops are of Mexican decent geniouses,so where’s your race card for that one???As a matter of fact i for one would like to see each and every one of you clown’s citizenship papers while yer BSing!!!!!

    • Stuart

      You know what, Sarge? I like you. You’re not like the other people, here in the trailer park.

  • c-man

    Who cares? Why do blacks and mexicans always get so much of a forum?

    • Stuart

      Because we are better than you.

      • Mike

        Better then us huh???? Sounds to me, you’re another useless ghetto rat….and obviously just as dumb.

  • Lastest Los Angeles Times News | Spinner News

    […] Lastest Los Angeles Times News Report: Deputies’ Mistakes Led T&#959 Iconic Journalist’s Death A report &#1109&#1072&#1091&#1109 Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies didn’t target journalist Ruben Salazar wh&#1077n h&#1077 w&#1072&#1109 shot &#1110n th&#1077 head w&#1110th a tear gas missile &#1110n 1970, b&#965t m&#1072&#1281&#1077 mistakes th&#1072t led t&#959 h&#1110&#1109 death. Read more &#959n CBS 2 Los Angeles […]

  • Not newsworthy

    Sounds like major racism in this forum: NOW LISTEN ALL OF YOU WE ARE ALL AMERICAN NO MATTER WHAT DESCENT: Irish, scottish, Russian, Mexican , Italian, African.

    • armando lawrence

      i have been made the victim of racisim not by chioce but by Anglo-white “Americans” and told that because we are not white americans that we are not americans. Can you please tell your thoughts to the SYSTEM, the Power Brokers that run this country, and please tell the KKK while you are at it?

      • Not newsworthy

        Don’t stereotype

  • Armando Lawrence

    Ruben Salazar was my fathers friend, i met him a few hours before his murder as i and my family attended, as was our constitutional rights to protest, the National Chicano Moratorium protest march . My father was well aware of the death threats being made against him for months. My father and other (moderete) Chicano activists felt that the Sherrff and LAPD were behind the Death Threas.
    I don not beleive the report and take it as an insult.
    By the way, the CBS reporter tonight said that Salazar’s death sparked the Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement……How can that be if the movement was already in full swing? This report that was made public today is not the end, just the start, i hope G. Molina remebers that, My name is Armando Lawrence Jr. Chairperson of the August 29th Chicano Moratorium Organizing Committee, see us on FB

  • Laughing in el monte


    • armando lawrence (Is Cua)

      As a chicano with native roots 10,000 years old in arizona and mexico i would be happy to help you pack your bags and buy you a ticket home to …EUROPE!!!!

      why do some whites belive that they have gestapo rights to ask people for thier papers?

      • Bryan Conover

        Still running this shake down of a response ?…Check your history…mexico abandoned this area a long time ago.

      • merelyashadow\

        Who cares whose homeland it WAS? Its ours now. Get over yourself.

  • Randall Scow

    A journalist is sitting at the bar, drinking a beer. He is shot and killed by an LA Deputy Sheriff. That is called a “mistake.” What would it be called if the Deputy was sitting at the bar drinking a beer and the journalist did the shooting?

  • Thea

    Many of you morons always think the solution is to tell others to leave this country simply because you are ignorant and are intolerant of other’s opinions! This does not demonstrate your intelligence or college education! It seems many of you are here to insult others but never make valid, non-fallacious arguments!

    Grow up people! This is NOT your country and asking people to show their “papers” is idiotic, moronic, and plain stupid!!!!

    There many corrupt people–police, council members, local businesses, etc–everywhere!
    Don’t blast people for speaking their minds or sharing their experience–it is disrespectful and intolerant!

    It is sad but true, as a human race, we are to be pitied

  • Freedom

    Who knows what REALLY happened.

    One thing is a fact: there are cover-ups and conspiracies abound. But the fact of the matter is that regardless of what the report brings to light, many will not be happy or believe what may have been uncovered or kept hidden from public consumption. Truth telling is not a virtue we value in this society–and corruption IS alive and well. It’s the nature of the beast.

    However there is a lesson to be learned here and unfortunately many will not heed it because they are inclined to attack others and destroy what they cannot understand.

    It’s not about any of you or your demands that people leave this country! Everyone here is an
    immigrant, except for native Indians!

    You have single-handedly reduced an important inquiry into Salazar’s death, to a mere notion of race, bigotry, and intolerance! Shame on you folks!

  • Robby Logan

    Who cares? It was an accident 40 years ago, he would have been dead by now anyway. One dead mexican here or there is no loss, he was just a stupid reporter.

    • Robby's a loser

      Robby Logan

      What an ignorant POS. Yours is not an opinion, it’s bigoted vomitus. Spare us your “genius” observation, evidently your IQ is not your forte.

  • armando lawrence

    So Sarge, my tribe , OPATA – TEHUIMA also have roots as far noth as the Huachucas, this is what i mean by 10,000 years of roots in arizona and mexico. Not sure what you are refering to specificly. I do ceremony with native people from here and all over – chumash/tongva/Nde/yaqui, Dine. Lakota, Hopi, ETC…I have neen a part of natie american Movement for years. Who knows, maybe we have sweated at the same losge. But not sure what your point to me is about?

  • armando Lawrence

    Bryan, no need to find it hard to track me or my statement, i will post my email. I majored in History/Chicano Studies/ Anthropology, but mainly i get my teachings from native american elders.
    email –

  • Mahala

    How could any of this be better stated? It cluodn’t.

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