On Friday, May 30, 2014, the monthly meeting of La Raza Roundtable included a presentation by San Jose’s Independent Police Auditor (IPA), Judge LaDoris H. Cordell (Ret.). The Judge announced that her 2013 IPA Year End Report was presented to Mayor Reed and the City Council in April of 2014. (The report is currently available online at www.sanjoseca.gov/ipa.) In addition to announcing the report, Judge Cordell presented the first episode of a 30-minute video program entitled “Make the Call, San José!” The show is a collaboration between the IPA, the San José Police Department (SJPD) and CreaTV. Each episode focuses on unsolved homicides in San José and features interviews with the victims’ family members. Viewers are encouraged to report all information related to the unsolved murders. For some crimes, a $10,000 reward is now available for tips leading to the arrest and conviction of the guilty parties.
Attendees at the La Raza Roundtable meeting listened attentively to the video program as the mother and sister of 17-year old Anthony Santa Cruz discussed his murder. He was stabbed to death near San Jose High in February 2013 while approximately 47 students were leaving the school. Next, the video program covered the shooting death of 20-year old Justin Watkins who was gunned down near Oak Grove High School in May of 2013. Mr. Watkins was murdered just a few weeks before his 21st birthday. It is inconceivable that these two unrelated murders went unseen and yet, to date, no one has provided information to the police. Not a single witness has come forward.
After the video program, Judge Cordell stressed the need for witnesses to tell police (or CrimeStoppers if they wish to remain anonymous) whatever bits of information they possess. “No one should get away with murder,” stated the Judge.
Following Judge Cordell’s comments, Anthony Santa Cruz’ mother made a personal plea to the audience. She said, “As long as my son’s stabbing case is not solved, justice is denied to me, his brothers and sisters, his father and this community. I want all of you to consider that because it does not allow my family to have closure on the stabbing death of my son Anthony. He was a good son. We love him and still miss his presence in our family one year later.”
The unsolved cases described in “Make the Call, San José!” are more common than one might imagine. Today, Gustavo Landeros is a banking official but, once upon a time, he was a local college student working part-time distributing El Observador. This past Christmas Eve, his brother was fatally injured in a car accident near the Valley Medical Center. The driver fled and this “hit & run” case remains unsolved. Although the incident occurred on a well illuminated street and was likely seen by several people, no eye witnesses have been identified. Still grieving, Mr. Landeros and his family wonder why witnesses have failed to come forward with information.
As long as cases such as these remain unsolved, justice is lacking in our community. The families of the victims are denied closure. Witnesses must do their civic duty and report what they know. Otherwise, unidentified killers do “get away with murder” in a City that prides itself on being among the safest large cities in the nation.
Young people and others sometimes refuse to reveal any information because they do not want to be labeled “snitches” or “rats.” Applying that thinking to these incidents is not only criminal, it is heartless. Withholding useful information from the authorities leaves the involved families sitting with unresolved grief for the rest of their lives.
The San Jose Police Department (SJPD) and the District Attorney currently have a list of about 28 killings that are unsolved. That number is just too large to ignore or refrain from discussing. Perhaps that is why they have joined forces to offer a $10,000 reward in some cases for tips leading to the arrest and conviction of the guilty parties.
At the La Raza Roundtable meeting, Police Chief Larry Esquivel made a commitment to do what is possible to resolve the unsolved murders. Chief Esquivel stated that, despite limited staffing levels, the SJPD treats felonies as high priority matters. To resolve cases, however, the police need pertinent information — particularly regarding the events that preceded each crime.
WHAT CAN I DO? 1) Go to Google, 2) type in “Make the Call, San Jose YouTube,” and 3) scroll down to watch the videos on YouTube. The program also airs at 7 PM on Friday nights on CreaTV Channel 30.
NO ONE SHOULD GET AWAR WITH MURDER! Leave your tip for the SJPD Homicide Unit at 408-277-5283 or, if you wish to remain anonymous, call CrimeStoppers at 408-947-7867. MAKE THE CALL TODAY.