Student shot by Monterey Park Police had Alhambra roots

Earlier versions of this story ran in Eastern Group Publications

Rodriguez who was shot by police in front of the Carl’s Jr. restaurant in Monterey Park was mourned by his aunt Martina Avalos, At a vigil for a student who Monterey Park Police killed last week, friends and family recalled a loving, computer whiz and aspiring biologist — painting a very different picture from the pipe-wielding criminal that police allege they were forced to shoot out of self defense.

“I wish you guys knew him. I wish you were close to him so you knew who he really was,” said Daniel Rodriguez of his younger brother Steven, who was shot 10 times on January 26 in front of a Carl's Jr.

Rodriguez's photo in a Garvey Intermediate School yearbook.Steven Rodriguez grew up in the Alhambra area and attended Garvey Intermediate School in Rosemead. Friends and family said the 22 year old, who recently moved with his family to Chino Hills, wanted to transfer from East Los Angeles College to a university to study biology.

A YouTube video recording Rodriguez walking out of the Carl's Jr, pipe raised, and then getting shot point blank, has been viewed by more than 1 million people, and helped fuel public outcry.

Police report that officers are trained to tell a suspect to drop a weapon, but if a weapon is pointed toward a police officer, then an officer “fearing for his life, will use deadly force to take down the suspect.”

The Sheriff’s homicide bureau is now handling the investigation and the Los Angeles County District Attorney will determine if the shooting was “within policy,” according to Monterey Park Lieutenant Jeff Alvarado.

Four police officers responded to a call around 9:30 am Monday reporting that an adult male was breaking windows at the fast food restaurant on Cesar Chavez Avenue. When police arrived, several patrons ran out of the restaurant, followed by the man brandishing a three-foot long metal bar, according to Monterey Park Police and the Sheriff’s Department.

The man did not listen when officers ordered him several times to drop the pipe, and an attempt to use a Taser stun gun on him produced no effect, said authorities. Rodriguez allegedly then approached one of the police officers, swinging the metal bar twice at him. He was subsequently shot by another police officer, who was “fearing for their safety,” according to a Sheriff’s report. Rodriguez was pronounced dead at the hospital.

At the vigil the family challenged the description. Daniel Rodriguez said his brother was a fun loving person who would have never hurt anyone. “He had the chance, but he chose not to [hurt anyone at Carl’s Jr]," he said. "There was a reason he was calm when he went and just broke the windows, and didn’t try to rob and hurt anyone.”

Family, friends and strangers visit the memorial to Steven Rodriguez. (EGP photo by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)An aunt said she had known Rodriguez since he was nine years old, and recalled serving him enchiladas at a family gathering. Another relative called Rodriguez “a happy-go-lucky person.”

Rodriguez was also a pro with computers, said one friend. “He would help people who would get a virus, get a blue screen," family friend Alberto Trevino said. "People would bring their computers and he would bring them back to life.”

Trevino added that Rodriguez just seemed like your average kid: “Tom Sawyer kind of kid… a little rambunctious, but that’s normal… maybe some would say he was a little nerdy, nothing wrong with that.”

Though Rodriguez’s family have shied away from making political statements – they said Rodriguez was not overtly political – the East Los Angeles College students who organized the vigil, and many area residents who attended, said they have had personal experience with excessive force and racial profiling by police.

“With everything [police] do, there are certain stuff like racial profiling, if you look a certain way, they give you a hard time,” said East Los Angeles College student Violet Bueno, 20.

She did not know Rodriguez, but was moved to attend his vigil. “It’s not the first time [police have] done stuff like this. The cops who were involved need to get in trouble for this, not just walk away, nothing,” she said.

In a brief speech to those in attendance at the vigil, Rodriguez’s stricken father, Martin Garcia, still fresh from the loss, managed to let out, “he was the best kid… I have no more words… I’m sorry about this, I cannot stay here,” before breaking down in tears.

15 thoughts on “Student shot by Monterey Park Police had Alhambra roots”

  1. Certainly police felt they were in danger & had to shot this man – BUT after he was shot FIVE TIMES & was down – Why was he SHOT FIVE MORE TIMES??? I agree with one of your readers – “Murder by Cops!”…oh well deadly use of force without accountability; same old same old.

  2. Let’s all hold judgement and not condemn either the cop or the dead man until all the investigation is done, the police pull area security camera tapes for investigation, and a toxicology report comes back. Each business around probably had security cameras and at least one probably got a better angle on this incident. Let’s hope those get released. Also, my guess is that Rodriquez was high on something, likely PCP or even meth (who else shrugs off tasers to the face?). But that’s just a guess. We won’t know until more facts are in. Until, then, let’s all be respectful of the dead man’s family, the cops involved, and each other.

  3. Bean bag shotguns, more officers with tasers and pepper spray instead of guns, the release of police dogs, and perhaps a safer distance of separation between Mr. Rodriguez and the cops- any combination of these suggestions may have brought about a more peaceful resolution to this conflict.

    There must be a better way to deescalate serious situations like this than 10 bullet shots at close range to the chest. A 22 year old college student died in a pool of blood, but, in my opinion, it shouldn’t have ended this way.

    May God bless the family of Mr. Rodriguez and the great City of Monterey Park.

  4. This is a very tragic event and unfortunately a life was loss. I think every police officer has the right to defend his or her life in the line of duty. However, looking at that video, I really feel they didn’t have to kill him.

    I can’t speak on behalf of these police officers, but if they felt their lives were threatened, then so be it. Their lives are always on the line every single day. However, I just feel they should have been better trained. When Rodriguez comes out of the store with a metal pipe, the officers have full justification to draw their guns. However, they shouldn’t have been pointing their guns at him if he (Rodriguez) wasn’t armed himself. The cops lethal force posture should commensurate the situation. The police also shouldn’t have their fingers on the trigger at such close quarters. I understand seconds count but that’s where training is critical. Don’t point unless you intend to shoot/kill the target. It would have been better to release the dog to initiate the “take down” process than giving only verbal commands to a person who clearly wasn’t in a normal state of mind.

    If you look at the video the officer who shoots the taser loses his guard by putting his head down (0:41-0:43) while he places his gun in his holster. Not only that, he is still walking TOWARDS Rodriguez, shadowing his partner’s movement. This places the officer much closer to Rodriguez when he (Rodriguez) turns around and raises the metal pipe. The officer looks up, becomes startled, fumbles back, and creates a sense of escalation. Situational awareness goes out the window. Like what so many others have said, I think 10 shots was too much.

    That being said, I think anyone who raises a weapon at a police officer should clearly understand the risks involved. If not, we get tragic events like this one. If people are to blame the police, we must also question why such a young person do a foolish thing like raising a weapon at a police officer. Its more than just about breaking windows. Did Rodriguez’s family ever realize any problems he might of had? Everyone takes responsibility, not just the ones who look bad.

  5. That was murder.

    I hope that cop burns in hell.

  6. Who was the insensitive ass who posted this video of him being killed and LAUGHING about it, like it was a freaking joke?? Regardless if he was in the right or wrong… a family lost a Son, a Brother & Friend and you post a video of people laughing about it… you’ve stooped to a new low on this paper… TAKE THIS VIDEO DOWN, there is a family grieving the loss of a loved one!!!

    1. @Tommy: Reasonable minds can differ. You feel the editors should be ashamed of themselves. In contrast, my take is that despite the insensitive comments, it would be irresponsible for the Alhambra Source to ignore it when posting this story. Plus, if I were a family member, I would prefer to have this video out there for the world to see and judge for themselves, asinine comments or not.

      Writers and editors walk a fine line when choosing to include or exclude facts in a story. In this case, the video is a large part of the story and fills in details a writer could barely explain. As the saying goes, a picture tells a thousand words. A video tells an exponentially greater number. Ultimately, this is news and the video is a big part of the story, like it or not.

  7. Why would he even go in there to do such a thing? No one gave him the pass card to go into a public place and destroy other people’s property and make it unsafe for others. He had many choices. He chose to do that.

    We blame other people like the police officers who shot him but what do you expect if you are still holding a weapon aggressively towards officers? A lot of people take things out of context and form their opinions.

    Now, because of his irresponsibility as a human being, he put other people in danger, and now he leaves the officer who shot him to live with that for the rest of his or her life. How selfish can this kid be?

    Yes, tragic but let’s start to be more real about looking at the situation from all angles.

    1. So then it’s a cop’s right to be the judge, jury and executioner? I’m not condoning what he did (smashing windows) but is that a reason to killed in a volley of up to 15 gunshots, many of those in the back?

      Anyone looking at the video can CLEARLY see that he was not a huge threat to the officers. He was outnumbered and no match for multiple firearms aimed at him and he was trying to walk AWAY from the situation. Granted, he should have stopped when told by the officers to do so. But is being foolish automatically make him subject for instant public execution? What if this 20-year old suffered from psychological issues?

      I’m sick and tired of the new immorality and lack of compassion in this country that basically says ANY bad behavior, even if it’s youthful indiscretion, is grounds for the most extreme punishment—death.

      1. @southend: Speaking of the new immorality and lack of compassion, could you not sense the same thing about the people shooting the video and them laughing?

        Have you seen the movie JACKASS and all the other similar videos posted on the web, including the cell phone videos we all see on the news with kids beating each other up in school? We don’t need extreme punishment, but everyone, not just the cops, need to take responsibility for their actions.

      2. Yeah. I found that really disturbing. Had it been me, I would’ve been sickened to see another human being killed so violently in front of my eyes.

        But that’s the new reality of our youth. Guns, violence, and a callous disregard for life seems to be the way our children our brought up in our society these days. Look around. Nearly every movie ad from the past two decades features weapons of some kind or the human figure in a grotesque manner (“Saw” “Final Destination”, etc.) and are in plain sight at bus stops and large billboards for children to see. And we don’t realize that they are internalizing these images. It’s no wonder that upon “maturity”, they are prime pickings for war fodder.

        This youth did not deserve to die and you can’t tell me those cops were “afraid” for their lives. The worst that could’ve happened to any of those cops was a nasty bruise from deflecting that pipe bender unless he would’ve had a chance to REPEATED beat one of the cops with it. Fat chance at that. If he had thrown the object THEN I could see discharging their firearms. But all I saw was the youth shrugging off the taser wires. The cop(s) over-reacted.

        And when did it become standard practice for police departments to kill citizens as if we were in a war zone? And if any of these police apologists come out with them “putting their lives in danger” then they don’t belong being cops. They could’ve done a number of things to quell the situation but didn’t.

    2. Oh man! You’re so smart! We should shoot all youths who break windows! Shooting a kid in the chest six times is a fitting punishment for breaking windows and threatening cops (who have guns) with a pipe! We should rob them of their youths at a young age! Man, elect this person to mayorship!

  8. Looks to me that he was walking away from one of the cops and as he tried to remove the taser wires, the other cop took that as an “aggressive motion” and unloaded his gun on him. Clearly an over-reaction on part of the police.

    The verdict?

    Murder by cop.

    Standard practice.

  9. “Rodriguez allegedly then approached one of the police officers, swinging the metal bar twice at him.”

    Um, did you watch the video that you posted? Did you see him swing twice? Or even once? He did cock the bar back, as if he was going to swing, but he did not swing. I admit that cocking it back was an aggressive motion, but he didn’t swing it.

    1. He was not cocking back the crow bar, he was simply trying to shrug off the taser wires.

Leave a Reply