Chicano charges repeated
By CHERYL McKINNON
Star-News Staff Writer
Three additional charges of alleged police abuse and harassment were heard Tuesday night by the National City Council during a presentation by Roberto Martinez of the Chicano Federation.
Some 30 Hispanic residents were on hand as Martinez told the council, "The objective of the National City police is to beat our people into submission."
TO DATE, during appearances in the last two months, Martinez has brought 18 cases to the council's attention.
Martinez has been assured by both the council and Police Chief Terry Hart that each complaint will be investigated fully. Again this week City Manager Tom McCabe told those present, "The investigations are under way, and when the time comes, we will bring the matter back to the council and make it public."
The complaints presented to the council included one involving Frank Guerrero of National City. Guerrero told the council that he was involved in a family dispute when officers were sent to his home to break up the quarrel.
"MY NATURAL instinct was to run," Guerrero said. Guerrero claimed that officers broke his foot and clubbed him unconscious through a screen door during the incident.
The police report indicates that officers responded to a call of a man with a knife at the Guerrero home on Division. The caller refused to identify herself to the dispatcher, however.
When officers arrived, they observed Guerrero acting in a suspicious manner, and when they approached home, he ran, according to the report.
During an interview the day after the incident, Minnie Guerrero, told a Star-News reporter that she had no knowledge of a knife, or of who had called the police.
However, in her later statements to the Chicano Federation and to police, Mrs. Guerrero retracted that statement, and said she did call police because she thought her husband had a knife and might do some harm.
A witness who was present during the incident at the Guerrero home stated to police that he observed Guerrero first in a confrontation with an older woman, and then later apparently doing something to the tires of a vehicle in front of the house.
THE WITNESS said he stopped and then attempted to assist police who had arrived on the scene, when Guerrero attempted to flee. The witness said he attempted to prevent Guerrero from climbing over a fence, by grabbing his foot. In his statement to police, the witness said he observed the entire incident and never saw officers use excessive force in dealing with Guerrero or is wife.
IN ANOTHER complaint, Yolanda Burrel of San Diego told the council that police forcibly enter ed her home looking for her brother-in-law. The officers apparently chased him from National City allegedly for drunken driving and speeding. Under state law, police officers can chase suspects across jurisdictional lines.
Burrel said officers were rude and used abusive language.
She said she asked one of the officers why they were there, "He said, 'shut up lady or I'm going to take you to jail,'" she said.
THE THIRD CASE concerned two families that resides in a local mobile home park, who are involved in sporadic disputes. However, no one involved in this complaint spoke before the council.
Martinez was again assured by the Council that disciplinary action would be taken if it was proved to be needed.
Councilman George Waters said, "If and officer is found guilty, I assure you he will be dismissed."
Councilman Louis Camacho voiced some concern over the fact that Chief Hart was not in attendance.
"I QUESTION the absence of the chief of police," Camacho said. "I'm sitting here as a Mexican-American. It is very difficult for me to sit here and listen to you make a remark about our police department and I can do nothing about it." (Hart is currently on vacation.)
Mayor Kile Morgan told Martinez and the others that it would be more appropriate for them to take their complaints to the district attorney's office rather than make their complaints to the council.
Martinez again complained that the police department continues to make it difficult for residents to file formal complaints, taking them aside and telling then complaints will do no good.
Capt. T. Wayne Fowler commented that Martinez' charges are not accurate. Fowler said he feels the department is doing everything possible to improve relations with the Mexican-American community.
"It is apparent that Mr. Martinez is doing his best to prove that we are against these people. I feel the best evidence to the contrary will be the results of the very thorough investigation currently in progress on each and every complaint he has made."