The next week, then-Dist. Atty. Evelle J. Younger announced that no criminal charges would be filed against Wilson. He said that only one charge was ever considered--involuntary manslaughter. But if there was negligence, Younger said, it was not "aggravated, culpable, gross or reckless," which would have been necessary to prove manslaughter.
Younger, who was running for state attorney general, was accused at the time by Chicano activists of not filing charges because he did not want to alienate the law enforcement community and its supporters. Younger, who died in 1989, denied the accusations.
After Younger's decision, Pitchess said that "there was absolutely no misconduct on the part of the deputies involved or the procedures they followed."
With that, the county closed its case.
But attorney Douglas Dalton, who represented Salazar's widow and three children, filed a lawsuit against the county and won a $700,000 settlement for the family. "This should never have happened," said then-Supervisor Ernest E. Debs. "A deputy sheriff used a gun against all regulations of the department and fired blindly through a door."
Dalton said in a recent interview that he thought manslaughter charges against Wilson would have been warranted. Wilson later retired from the force and could not be reached for comment.
Despite the persistent calls for a federal probe, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles had no intention of investigating Salazar's killing, according to an Oct. 20, 1970, memo from the FBI office in Los Angeles to the agency's headquarters in Washington.
"For the information of the bureau, Robert L. Meyer, [U.S. attorney], Los Angeles, California, orally indicated to agents of this office on 10/19/70 that he has no intention of taking action regarding Salazar's death," the memo stated. "However, to offset any possible criticism of his office he is requesting FBI to investigate the cause of the riot."
The Justice Department said Friday that it did conduct an exhaustive investigation and decided in March, 1971, that there "was insufficient evidence to permit the filing of criminal charges." A spokesman said he did not know if a public announcement on the closing of the case was made at that time. Montez, the Civil Rights Commission official, and Roybal, the longtime congressman, say they knew of no such federal investigation.
Montez, Ericksen and Casso, the three men who lunched with Salazar three days before his death, to this day maintain that his killing was no accident. They said they only realized later how serious the situation was.
"I'm one of those people who still firmly believe that Ruben was a victim of a political assassination," Ericksen recently told a group of journalists at a forum on Salazar's legacy.
That view is also shared by Ruiz, the photographer outside the Silver Dollar, and Restrepo, who sat next to Salazar inside the bar.
But Sheriff Block strongly disagrees, saying he recalls testimony at the inquest showing how the bar's curtain deflected the projectile toward Salazar's head. "If you have an intent to shoot somebody," he said last week, "you don't do it with a tear gas projectile."
Today, many in the Latino community still feel that a new, more thorough investigation is needed to help write the final chapter on the slain newsman.
But with many of the key people dead, the doubts, suspicions and questions will probably live on.
"When you start putting all those things together, it's an amazing series of circumstances," Villanueva says of Salazar's behavior in those final days and the events leading to his death. "I guess I'll go to my grave wondering."