Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In Memory of Rachel Amaris Elliott, 1989-2008.

As I look out my window, I'm reminded that one season is about to end and another begin. Shadows seem to be growing taller earlier in the day and the garden wains in the ever decreasing sunlight.  Kids are back to school and grocery stores are beginning to flourish with Labor Day shoppers.  An unofficial end to summer, Labor Day is a time old tradition characterized by the smell of barbecues, the laughter of children playing with the cousins, mom's potato salad, a couple of cold ones, and of course the Jerry Lewis Telethon.   So, since the holiday is upon us I thought I would introduce you to a young lady who represents another side of the festivities to come this weekend. 


Rachel Amaris Elliott,  was born June 23, 1989 in Fallbrook, California to Steve and Jill Elliott.   I think what best describes the birth of Rachel is by her Father "The night of June 23, 1989 was the most wonderful night of my life.  I recognized instantly that Rachel was a miracle straight from the hands of God.  I felt the weight of responsibility as I held her in my arms.  I wanted to prove myself worthy of this priceless gift.  I made it my life's devotion to nurture and protect her".   Her father goes on to say "Rachel is a precocious child.  She began talking when she was only 7 months old, and, to my delight, her first words were "Da Da".  Every night before I put her to bed, I take her outside to say "good night" to the stars.  I read to her, pray with her, and for her, and sing her to sleep".


Rachel's mother Jill makes a post on her blog that says the following:

  • "Elva drove drunk to Santa Barbara after she killed Rachel"
  • "Elva drove on a suspended license after she killed Rachel"
  • "She had a "princess" themed party about a month after she killed Rachel and served alcohol to one or more teenagers."
  • "Weeks after she killed Rachel, Elva would post comments on her MySpace page that showed zero remorse.  Only more partying, fun, and guys."
  • "While in county jail, Elva told her brother "they need to get over it" of course in reference to the family of Rachel only wanting due justice".
No Rachel did not have Muscular Dystrophy, but what killed this beautiful young women was just as deadly.  Unlike MD, what killed Rachel is totally preventable.  Here is the other story of Rachel Amaris Elliot who died on February 20, 2008 by a drunk driver.

At the time of her death, Rachel was living in Irvine, California with her Aunt Lindsay and Uncle Brian while she attended UC Irvine College.  Rachel had just finished her first semester and was looking forward to the coming spring.  Described as being extremely talented, intelligent and responsible, Rachel had a strong desire to serve her fellow man.  So much so, she aspired to become a forensic investigator when she graduated.  In a twist of fate, Rachel was a champion against teenage drunk driving and was a lead participate in the program "Every 15 Minutes" conducted for teenagers and families around the world.


In searching for the details of the crash, there is a link on a website devoted to Rachel labeled "Accident News Blog".  Clicking on the tab, you are directed to a blog called www.topix.com.  The first post in the comment section literally gave me the chills.  It was from MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  "Does anyone have information on a fatal car accident on Temescal Canyon around 12:30 A.M. on Thursday morning?  It involved a drunk driver slamming head-on and killing a young girl...Please help us learn about our friend who lost her young life due to the negligence of a stupid drunk.

Rachel's Car
It didn't take long for the replies to start pouring in, but it was one in particular that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand-up even more.  Debbie posted "I live right where the accident occurred.  I'm still haunted by the impact of the cars colliding that night...That poor little girl!  Rachel's car was destroyed so bad, you could hardly tell it was even a car.  Poor Baby!...I have seen many fatalities on this road but Rachel's accident was more violent by far..."  



Continuing on for the details of the accident, here is a synopsis of what I found on ChicoER.com by staff writer Greg Welter: Rachel was traveling on a residential street in an unincorporated area of Corona, approximately 40 miles Southeast of Los Angeles when she was struck head-on by a Chevrolet Tahoe that crossed over the center line.  The collision, reported at 12:39 a.m., was so violent the Tahoe rolled over after impact.  The driver, Elva Diaz, 29, sustained minor injuries in the crash.  Diaz was booked into the Riverside County jail on felony drunk driving and manslaughter.  Rachel suffered major head trauma and died at a local hospital at 3:30 a.m.  The article goes on to say that Rachel's parents were flying to Riverside to make the necessary arrangements.
Rachel and her parents Steven and Jill
Necessary arrangements.  I had to stop and think about that for a moment...As a parent, your supposed to be making arrangements for things like weddings, graduations, baby showers, not funeral arrangements.  How could anything be so unnecessary as your child being killed by a drunk driver? 

Now, there is all kinds of statistics out there citing the deaths each year by drunk driving, but it never seems to do much good to point out the numbers.  It can never happen to me is the rationale when your drinking if you even give it a thought at all.  How many of us have the capability to be as cold hearted as Elva Diaz?  Could any of you reading this article really live with themselves knowing they were responsible for the death of such a beautiful young woman?

This really pains me to have to admit this but I came very close 2 1/2 years ago to answering those questions myself.  I really struggled with mentioning this because I didn't want to make this about me.  But I feel, after reading about Rachel, that I owe her parents by telling my story in hopes that you will never do a senseless selfish act like getting behind the wheel while intoxicated like I did so many times.  Yeah, that's right, I drove more than once in my lifetime drunk and I was a just a social drinker.  And what made it worse, I was a fireman and a cop!  I didn't even drink at home except on very rare occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It was a joke around my house that a six-pack of beer would sit in my fridge until it turned to wine.   In fact, I never had a thing for alcohol because my mom was an alcoholic when I was growing up and remained that way until the day she died.  But when I got a divorce in 1994, I started partying every weekend at a favorite nightclub whenever I wasn't own duty at the firehouse.  Now most nights, I left feeling fine, but every once in a while I would drive home when I clearly knew I shouldn't of. 

To make it more confusing as to why I would commit such a senseless act,  I can't begin to even tell you folks how many innocent people I have seen maimed or killed in drunk driving incidents, but that didn't stop me.  I wish I could forget the incidents where some well intentioned friend or neighbor called the parents who rushed to the scene only to have me tell them that their child was dead.  But that didn't stop me from getting behind the wheel and driving buzzed on days like the upcoming Labor Day weekend. 


Rachel and her Great-Grandmother
I'll never forget that night as long as live.  I was sitting at home on the evening of May 6th, 2009 watching T.V. when I suddenly remembered "Oh shit, the union retirement dinner is tonight.  How in the hell am I going to make it from Concord to San Jose in less than an hour?"  Fifteen minutes later I jumped in my vette and headed south.  When I got there, an hour late, most of the retirees being honored that night had already had gotten up and made their speech and received their plaque.

 Speech?  What Speech? I don't make speeches folks.  I have an intense fear of speaking in public.  So I did what any stage-frightened man would do, I downed enough wine to give me the courage to walk up there and speak in front of a room full of people. 

Home was an hour and a half away and I was feeling buzzed but I felt that I could make it OK if I just took my time and was careful.  Famous last words.  I wish I had a twenty for every time I heard that.  And I almost made it until the last 10 miles.  What is it we were taught when we were younger "accidents occur within 25 miles or less from home".  Except this was no accident, I was driving while under-the-influence.
Rachel and her Aunt Lindsay
The last thing I remember before totaling my vette was someone honking their horn at me after I cut them off on Hwy 680 and Ignacio Valley Road in Concord.  Somehow I made through the first stop light but I wasn't so lucky at the next intersection.  I took out a traffic sign and a stop light before I woke up to gain control of my car.  Much more sober now, I managed to drive my car even though the front end was totally destroyed, another block and even made a right turn into a Kinder Care parking lot with no right front wheel. 

I sat in my car for what seemed like 20 minutes before I could shake off what happened and come to my senses.  Just as I exited my vehicle, Walnut Creek P.D. showed up.  I passed the field sobriety tests but blew a .11 so off to jail I went.  The gravity of what could have happened still hadn't hit me yet at this point.  All I knew was that I was sitting in the back of a cop car, handcuffed, and on my way to the Contra Costa County Jail.  Because I had no one to take me home, I spent the night in a holding cell.  At 10:00 the next morning, I was released from jail with no car and worried to death of what was coming next. 

Taxis were waiting outside the jail even on a Sunday morning and so I jumped in and headed home with the worst headache I have ever had in my life.  As we approached Civic Drive, I realized just how blessed I was not to have killed someone much like Rachel had died.  The traffic sign and light are sitting on a center divide separating on-coming traffic from the East.  If my vehicle would have drifted over just a foot, I would have likely went head-on with another vehicle.  For the rest of the 10 mile ride home, I sat in the back of the cab and just shook. 

For the next year I had to deal with the Department of Motor Vehicles, the justice system, the City of Walnut Creek, and of course my insurance company and the attorney handling my case.  After the attorney gladly took my $3500.00, I had to come up with another $5,000 for a down payment on a new car, I also had to figure out how I was going to get myself around for the next 45 days while my license was revoked. Thank God I was retired and didn't have to drive to work.  When the DMV says you cannot drive, they mean you don't drive because if you get caught, your problems have just gotten 10 times worse.  After the DMV hearing and the 45 day suspension, I received a restricted license and was enrolled in the First Offender Drunk Driving Program.  The program consists of 16 hours of classroom instruction and 10 hours of group discussion.  I was also ordered by the court to attend 12 Alcohol Anonymous meetings, 10 hours of community service, a $1800.00 dollar fine and serve three years probation. 

In conclusion, the price I paid for my mistake was nothing compared to the price Rachel Elliott paid.  I can't explain it, maybe because I was so disgusted with myself, but since my arrest I haven't been able to drink alcohol without feeling sick to my stomach.  I feel very blessed to have such a wonderful guardian angel that protected not only me, but others on the road that night. Please don't drink and drive this holiday weekend or at anytime for that matter.  Think about murdering someone like Rachel.  Would you be able to "get over it" as Elva Diaz suggested? What would happen to your family, your home, your job? 

Oh, one other thing.  Mr. Elliott's statement about his daughter's birth I quoted in the beginning of this article was actually an excerpt from his victim statement at the sentencing of Elva Diaz who is serving a 10 year sentence in prison for the murder of Rachel. 



For More Information go to :

Rachel Elliott Website
Every 15 Minutes
MADD











Sunday, August 21, 2011

Spectator Violence In Stadiums

People are starting to ask if it safe to attend sporting events anymore.  I understand particulary in the light of what happened Saturday at the Niner/Raider game at Candlestick and of course the terrible beating incident of Bryan Stow at the Dodger/Giants game in L.A. a few months ago.  Based on the comments in the Bay Area on-line newspapers, the question certainly seems to be on the minds of Santa Clarians who just approved a new 49er stadium.

Candlestick Park
From a security standpoint, sporting events in stadiums can be a nightmare if not approached in a comprehensive and serious manner.  I suspect that some team owners and police departments probably could do a great deal more in this area.  We also cannot have a discussion however unless we include the fans that are involved in these tragic incidents.  I have seen many individuals and groups come into baseball and football games after drinking excessively at tailgate parties.  Often they are boisterous, rude, and ready to fight.  Now it's true, spectator violence in sporting venues is nothing new.  Such spectacles have occurred since the ancient arenas of Greece and Rome.  But I fear that gone are the days when fights were settled with fists.  Now we have people out there that are more than willing to pump four shots into you from a 9mm and go back to partying like nothing ever happened.

Although once rare in the U.S., America is starting to take on the characteristics of longstanding spectator violence in European countries.  Consider the aggression we have seen displayed in stadiums across England, Germany, and the Netherlands.  A perfect example is Britain with their "Football Hooligans".  These roaming bands of thugs commit acts of violence on not only other fans within the confines of the stadium, but on the outskirts as well.  This is problem is so far reaching in England that the Brits have labeled it "The English Disease".

So how do you spot trouble and what do you do about it?  My advise first of all is not to take matters into your own hands.  You as a law-abiding fan have a duty to report trouble to security when you see it or confronted with it.  After many years of dealing with intoxicated people, the one thing I can tell you as sure as the sun sets is drunks are not going to listen to reason.  Further, if they are "violent" drinkers, confronting those individuals most certainly will make things worse.  So please, do everyone a good deed by reporting these individuals before things get out of hand.  How to spot trouble:
  • Obscene or abusive language and/or behavior
  • Fighing, taunting, or threatening remarks and/or gestures
  • Intoxication or signs of impairment related to alcohol or drugs
  • Gang activity
  • Any distraction to the progress of the game
  • Excessive standing that obstructs the view of other fans
  • Throwing objects of any kind
Candlestick Park has "alcohol and disruptive fan response teams" throughout the stadium.  To report an unruly fan or any kind of disturbance:
  1. Contact the nearest Usher or Security for assistance.
  2. Dial #41513 and type in keyword "BADFAN" and a <space>.  Describe the issue and location (i.e., man using obscenities in upper box 61, row 1, seat 1) if you can.  The more detailed you can get the better.
  3. Dial #415-656-4949 and hit "0" to speak with a 49er agent.
***All reports and tips are kept confidential***
For more information go to www.49ers.com/stadium/security-procedures.html

The Oakland Coliseum and the Oakland Raiders have what they call "GuestAssist".  To report any conduct concerns:
  1. Dial #69050 then text the keyword "OAK" along with your message.
For more information go to www.raiders.com/tickets/a-z-fan-guide.html
I recommend you put these numbers in your phone if you attend these types of venues.  Stay safe!




Saturday, August 13, 2011

Part 3 of 3 - Officer Down on the Streets of San Jose: A Tragic Day in 1970


Part 3 of 3

The Arrest


Before Officer Huerta was pronounced D.O.A. at San Jose Hospital, detectives were already on scene looking for evidence.  Also at the incident was Sgt. Clark Randall who gave uniformed officers specific details to locate witnesses and gather their statements. When two canine officers arrived, Terry Moudakas and Dave Lustig, Randall paired them up with two officers Joe Ross and Greg Pinck and had them begin a yard-to-yard search for the suspect who they believed to be still in the area.

Working their way east with their dogs Celto and Rex, the two canine teams searched house-to-house until just after 3 a.m. when Pinck climbed on top of a BBQ pit at 543 N. Thirteenth.  As Pinck peered over the privacy fence, suddenly he made eye contact with a black male lying on his side up against the fence.  Drawing his duty weapon, Pinck ordered the man to freeze.  Arousing the attention of Officer Ross who was in the adjoining yard, Ross looked up to see Pinck pointing his weapon at someone.  Springing into action, Ross smashes through a six-foot fence to come face to face with the man who yells “Okay man, you got me, I give up!”

However, as quickly as he blurted out the words of surrender, the suspect jumps to his feet exposing a gun in his waistband.  Ross immediately yells “he has a gun!”  At that moment, Pinck grabs for the suspects gun hand while Moudakas’s dog Cieto nails the man in the chest, knocking all three men to the ground.  Struggling with the suspect, the man goes for the gun in his waistband, but Lustig’s dog Rex leaps at that very moment and takes a nasty bite on the guy’s leg and a few other places. 

Now under arrest, the man in wrist bracelets reveals his name, Emile Thompson.   The suspect, flanked by Detectives Dave Brickell and Larry Stuefloten, arrive at Valley Medical Center to get Thompson treatment for the dog bite wounds.  Brickell, many years later, recalls just getting into bed after a long shift only to get a phone call from Bart Collins advising him that Richard had been shot and to return immediately to the Police Administration Building (PAB).  While at the hospital, Brickell reflects back regarding the demeanor of Thompson, “I remember clearly…he was smiling from time-to-time and acted if the whole thing was no big deal.”

During the entire three hours at the hospital, Brickell and Stuefloten were forced to endure Thompson’s constant black power rhetoric ramblings.  However, what the suspect said while lying in his hospital bed took the two detectives by surprise.  Out of the blue, Thompson asked Stuefloten “You want to know why?”

Moving his tape recorder to Thompson’s big mouth, Emile starts on a tirade of the “pigs” this and the pigs that.  At one point, he claims that he was hassled for no reason by a cop and that was the justification for shooting Richard.  When asked why he targeted Huerta, Thompson said “he stood for all pigs, besides he was the easiest.”  Stuefloten said “you mean you just walked up to the car and shot him?”  Thompson replied “yeah, I just, bam!”

While waiting for his arraignment and trial, Brickell said they would get a phone call from the deputies at the jail each time Thompson received a visitor, and each time, someone would be sent to listen in on his conversations.   Dave remembers one such visit from Emile’s brother who happened to be a Corrections Officer for Oakland P.D.  Showing the true callous of Thompson, when asked by his brother why he didn’t shoot the witnesses, Emile sobbed and said “I didn’t have any more bullets left”.

The Trial


Emile Thompson was charged with first degree murder but with numerous motions, appeals and delays, the trial didn’t begin until October of 1971.  The trial, three weeks in duration, was continuously disrupted by outbursts from Thompson.  Shouting his father was a “pig” and verbally threatening a juror that he would murder his children were the order of the day for Thompson.  At one point, he even tried to escape.  However through it all, the evidence showed that Huerta’s murderer stalked him for at least 15 minutes before killing him.  One would think this should have been enough for a death penalty conviction if there ever was one.

On October 22, 1971, Emile Thompson was given life with the possibility of parole.  How the jury came to the conclusion that this man deserved mercy I will never understand.  Perhaps it was a sign of things to come like the infamous Rodney King trial, O.J. Simpson, and Casey Anthony.

Richard Eugene Huerta was much more than just a great cop.  He was a father, husband, son, and brother.  He was a music teacher who loved to teach children the enjoyment of music.  One student of his recently wrote this of Richard, “I was one of his students.  I think he had about a dozen pupils.  Richard had a way about him with kids.  He was really good with us.  I won’t bore you with the details of his teachings, but there are certain aspects of that teaching that have stayed with me these past 35 years.”

I can’t think of a better tribute to one’s life than to be acknowledged like the man above did for Richard.  Many people, not just cops have been affected by the murder of Officer Huerta.  But it is that special bond that police officers have with each other that continues to sting for the rest of their lives.  I myself remember sitting in briefing and each time I looked over at Richard’s plaque, I felt an emptiness and deep sadness even though Richard had been gone many years before I joined the SJPD.    

Emile Thompson will be up for parole in April of 2012.  In his 2008 parole hearing, over 400 letters from current and retired police officers, as well as citizens, urged the parole board not to release Thompson.  The board agreed saying the murder was a “premeditated, well thought out, tactical assassination and execution of a law enforcement officer simply because he was wearing a uniform”.  Thompson is currently incarcerated at Vacaville State Prison in California.

Thanks to Sgt. Dwight Messimer, a retired 22 year veteran of the SJPD and a great historian for many of the facts that occurred that horrible night.  Also Dave Brickell for his observations of Thompson which gave us insight to the demeanor of this killer.  And finally thank you to Ivano Franco Comelli, retired officer and author who also provided much information regarding Richard’s assassination.  


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Part 2 of 3- Officer Down on the Streets of San Jose: A Tragic Day in 1970

Part 2 of 3

Back at the car stop, Coldiron had gotten out of his vehicle and approached Huerta.  After a brief conversation, Richard told the driver to sit in the passenger side of his vehicle while he got in on the driver’s side and closed the door.  Huerta switched off his “spot” and began writing the citation after turning on the interior dome light. 
After driving around for the last 10 minutes roaming the streets near the campus of San Jose State, Thompson sees a cop car on routine patrol and decides to begin tailing him.  Remaining a safe distance from the officer’s vehicle, Emile observes a Cadillac blow the light at Eleventh at Santa Clara and watches as the patrol car pursues the violator.
Now traveling on Eleventh Street approaching Empire Street, Emile sees the blinding beam of the spotlight come on and the Cadillac pull to the curb.  Seeing a possible opportunity to ambush Huerta, Thompson pulls to the curb approximately 250 feet back from the car stop under cover of the shadows of the tree lined street.  Contemplating his next move, Emile watches as Coldiron gets in the car with the officer.  Pulling a revolver from his waistband, Thompson exits his vehicle as does Najera from the Cadillac and both men approach the cruiser.   
As Thompson tactically moves towards his target, Najera, already at the patrol car, peers in the window to see both Huerta and Coldiron bent over the ticket book being written on.  While leaning against the passenger door, Najera suddenly gets violently pushed out of the way as Thompson takes aim inside the car.  Hearing the commotion, Caldiron looks up and to his right to see a man’s arm being shoved through the window holding a revolver.  Instinctively, Coldiron threw himself under the dash just has Thompson unloads his weapon into Richard.  The assailant emptied his revolver hitting the officer four times, one through the top of his head, one though his right shoulder and the remaining two in his back near the base of the neck as he slumped forward in the seat from the first two bullets.




Thompson wasted no time fleeing the scene.  Immediately the suspect bolted north down Eleventh Street and stopped at 572 North Eleventh long enough to try and jimmy a window.  Unable to break in, he runs east towards Twelve Street in a frantic attempt to get out of the area before the cops throw a net over the entire neighborhood.
With a dead cop slumped over the steering wheel, Najera grabs Coldiron and screams “Let’s get out of here!”  The two men jump in the Cadillac and head west towards city hall.  At the same time, residents living near the shooting scene hear shots and screaming then the squealing rubber of car leaving the area at a high rate of speed. 
Santa Clara County’s finest; Deputy Jaggers and Burnett were traveling on San Pedro towards Hedding when they observed a white Cadillac fishtail into the parking lot of the Sheriff’s Office Headquarters across from the County Administration building. Wondering what that was all about, the deputies’ pull into the S.O.’s parking lot and approach the two men who are now frantically banging on the doors of the building entrance.  Both men yell at the officers  “A cop just got shot on Twelfth Street!”  Jaggers and Burnett quickly put both men in the backseat, punched the gas on their unit and point the nose towards the location given by the witnesses.  Speeding towards the area, the Deputy riding shotgun advises County Communications of an officer shot and down at the location reported. 




At 0201 hours, on the sixth of August, the first call from dispatch came over the airwaves “All units, via the Sheriff’s Office, officer down on  Twelfth Street!”  Now, I can tell you from personal experience as a police officer and a dispatcher, the words “officer down” are the most hair raising adrenaline pumping two words you will ever hear in your life.  As quickly as the words traveled to the beat cars on the street, the sleeping residents of downtown San Jose were awaken by the sounds of police sirens and high powered police packaged Plymouth’s and Dodge’s screaming towards the area. 
Immediately, the San Jose Dispatcher working the “Green Channel” which handled the primary radio traffic for the odd numbered beats in those days, started getting barraged with questions,  “Where on Twelfth Street?  Is it a Deputy or SJPD? Any description of the suspect?  Any direction of travel?” 
At this juncture, let me tell you that this is where a good dispatcher is worth every penny we pay them.  A sharp, competent dispatcher can make all the difference when it comes to the initial handling of an incident like this.  And in this case, the confusion started immediately by not having a specific location.  Twelfth Street runs 21 blocks long through the heart of downtown.  Picture this:  you have dozens of units racing towards an area, units are cutting off each other on the radio, and questions are coming so fast no one can be expected to process it all.  And then as calm as if it is just another routine call,  you hear on the radio that familiar voice “All units, B-3 had a car stop on Eleventh near Washington and Empire”
Remember the San Jose officer, Jack Morris, who rolled by Richard’s car stop to assist if necessary?  I couldn’t begin to imagine the shock waves that rolled through his body at that moment.  To realize later, that you were the last officer to see Richard Huerta alive must have been devastating for Officer Morris. 
Now at this time, the city switchboard began lighting up with calls from citizens in the area reporting the commotion on Eleventh Street.  Carmen McKenzie of 530 N. Eleventh, heard a police car stopping someone in front of her house.  A few minutes later Carmen heard gun fire and shouting and quickly went to her front window to investigate.  As she pulled back the drapes, Ms. McKenzie saw the silhouette of Huerta’s patrol car, red lights still glaring, but not a sense of movement from anywhere on the street.  Fearing that a police officer had just been shot, Carmen picked up the phone and dialed the police.
With an exact location now given by McKenzie, officers Lansdowne and Brocato instantly realized they were on top of the call.  Slamming the gas pedal to floor, the two San Jose Merge officers, the equivalent to SWAT units of today, quickly come to the intersection of St. John and Eleventh .  Lansdowne riding shotgun, looks down Eleventh and sees the flashing “yellows” on B-3’s car and Brocato again mashes the gas pedal.
By the time the two merge officers arrive at the scene, Huerta is already dead, his blood soaked ticket book lay on the front seat with his ballpoint pen still in his right hand.  Refusing to give up, Lansdowne and Brocato frantically pull Richard’s body from the car and with the assistance of Sergeant Doug Wright and Officer Stan Kephart, begin CPR.  But it is to no avail, Officer Richard Eugene Huerta becomes the fourth officer to die in the line of duty serving the citizens of San Jose. 

In part three, the apprehension and trial of Emile Thompson.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Officer Down on the Streets of San Jose: A Tragic Day in 1970





PART 1 OF 3
The driver mashed the gas pedal practically through the floorboard of the 1960 white Caddy trying to beat the yellow light at Eleventh and Santa Clara Street.  John Coldiron and his passenger figured they could make it before the yellow merged into red, but Officer Huerta traveling in his cruiser Eastbound on Santa Clara already knew the Cadillac wasn’t fast enough, and besides the driver was traveling well above the posted speed limit. 

Meanwhile, earlier in another part of town, Emile Thompson started out the night getting into an argument with his girlfriend.  Unable to resolve their differences, the woman kicked Thompson out of her apartment with the assistance of several male friends.  Angered by the incident and his throat left dry from the argument, Thompson decided to quench his thirst with an orange drink at the Winzet, a little restaurant on Santa Clara Street.  

As Huerta’s blue & white passed Washington Street, he activated the “reds” and adjusted his spot light to cover the vehicle’s interior.  “Lighting up” the interior and blinding the driver, the Cadillac pulled to the right and stopped.  The officer prepared for a routine car stop by pulling in behind the speeder and off-setting his car to protect him from on-coming traffic and cover if need be.  The officer grabbed the mike from its chrome cradle and called in the stop “San Jose, B-three, I will be 10-7 at North Eleventh and Empire”. 

Hearing the stop, Officer Jack Morris, as customary for officers to do, decided to roll by and see if Richard needed any assistance. As he approached the rear of B-3’s vehicle, Huerta stepped out into the roadway and gave Jack “four fingers” a hand signal indicating to other officers no assistance is needed.  Officer Morris checked his watch and noted the time was 1:45 a.m.

As the time approched the bottom of the hour, Thompson leaves the restauant with his drink in hand, but returns a short time later and irately accuses waitress Marlene Braden of cheating him by putting too much ice in the cup and demanded a refill.  He then, without provocation, threw the cup of ice in Marlene’s face and threatened to return and “mess her up”.    Scared to death, Braden frantically calls the police.



Son of Oakland police officer, Thompson was a sometimes student at San Jose State.  Thompson was reported to loath his father as a police officer, no doubt fueled by his radical militant political views.   Until the morning of August 6th, Emile only had minor brushes with the law, a couple of arrests for marijuana possession.  However, as we will see, by 1:30 in the morning, Thompson decided to take out his hatred of his father on one of our own, he was going to kill a cop!  Any cop!

In Memory of Officer Richard E. Huerta #47, 1935-1970

In Memory of Officer Richard Eugene Huerta #47
Last Watch: Killed in the Line of Duty- August 6, 1970











Today, we remember one of our own,                                   
gunned down on a warm summers eve,
leaving us all to grieve.

Today, Officer Richard Eugene Huerta,
forever standing tall,
ended his watch with his last call.

Today, we the citizens past and present,
yet to live or about to die,
will cry for Officer Huerta and ask why?
Why did Officer Huerta have to die?

I say he gave his life for the badge on his chest,
he lived his life and gave his best.

Paul Sprague
Retired, SJFD



"The Badge"

He starts his shift each day,
to respond to calls unknown,
he drives a marked patrol car,
a police officer he is known.

He's paid by the citizens' taxes,
to make it safe on the streets,
but he usually has a second job,
cause a waitress has his salary beat.

Now he doesn't know a holiday,
cause he works all year round,
and when Thanksgiving and Christmas finally arrive,
at his home he cannot be found.

He's cursed and assaulted often,
the one who's blood runs blue,
he seldom ever gets a thanks,
to some he's just a fool.

His friends are always other cops,
cause people just don't understand,
that underneath his badge and gun,
he's just another man.

He knows there might not be a tomorrow,
in this world of drugs and crime,
and he gets so mad at the court system,
cause the crooks don't get any time.

And each day when he leaves for work,
he prays to God above,
please bring me home after my shift,
so I can see the ones I love.

But tonight he stops a speeding car,
he's alone down this ole' highway,
it's just an infraction,
he does it everyday.

Well, he walks up to the driver's window,
and his badge is shining bright,
he asked the guy for a driver's license,
when a shot rang through the night.

Yes, the bullet hit it's mark,
striking the officer in the chest,
but the departments budget didn't buy,
each officer a bullet proof vest.

So he lay on the ground bleeding,
his blood wasn't blue - his blood was red,
and briefly he thought of his loved ones,
cause in a moment the officer was dead.

In the news they told the story,
of how this officer died,
and some who listened cared less,
but those who loved him cried.

Well, they buried him in uniform,
with his badge pinned to his chest,
he even had his revolver,
he died doing his best.

Written by:
David L. Bell
Sergeant
Richland County Sheriff's Department
Columbia, South Carolina