Norma and Norberto Martinez say their son's name should be as well known as that of Donovan Jackson.
Jackson, a 16-year-old Inglewood boy, was slammed onto a police car and punched by an Inglewood police officer in July, eliciting public denunciations by a host of leaders, including that city's mayor and the U.S. attorney--and triggering a grand jury inquiry that resulted in criminal charges against two officers.
Gonzalo Martinez's encounter with police also was captured on videotape. It ended in a hail of gunfire as police fired with handguns and a machine gun, killing Martinez, 26, and spraying shots through a residential neighborhood. Martinez, who was unarmed, had led police on a chase and was shot as he emerged from his car.
Images of that shooting have been briefly aired here--and have generated outrage in Latin America--but Martinez's parents and activists say they cannot even get the attention of Downey City Hall, where the mayor says he has not watched the tape.
In documents, Downey police said Martinez, a suspected drunk driver who had tried to run over police, was making a "furtive movement" with one arm as he got out of his car. They decline to comment otherwise.
The images of Martinez's death, captured in a grisly videotape that shows the barrage of gunfire and then Martinez's convulsing body, have sparked only selective outrage. For the last six months, the dead man's family has led protests outside Downey City Hall. Images of the shooting were shown in their native Argentina. The FBI and the Los Angeles County district attorney's office are investigating.
On Tuesday night, the Downey City Council reversed itself and voted to allow the Friends of Gonzalo Committee to march in a protest Saturday. The council, which had denied a request for a parade permit, relented after the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California threatened to sue. A demonstration in April drew more than 100 marchers.
But the tape has otherwise escaped much notice in Southern California. In the days immediately after the shooting, some stations aired portions of the tape, Martinez's family said. The story then quickly died out, and later this summer was much overshadowed by the Inglewood incident.
That tape first aired in early July and within days had been critiqued by Inglewood's mayor, Roosevelt Dorn, as well as U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft. Local prosecutors took the case to the county grand jury, and produced indictments against two officers in less than three weeks. Those two Inglewood officers have been relieved of duty while that case moves forward.
In Downey, meanwhile, the officers involved in the Martinez shooting remain on regular duty.
Downey's mayor, Meredith Perkins, said he has seen the Inglewood videotape several times on television but has yet to watch the one of the shooting in his city.
While expressing sympathy for the Martinez family, Perkins said he wants to be able to make an unbiased decision after he gets reports from the FBI and district attorney. "Anyone who's involved should get a fair hearing," he said.
Downey officials would not provide the names of the officers who fired at Martinez. In Inglewood, the Police Department identified the officers involved within a day of the incident coming to public light.
The different reactions to the two cases anger local activists. "How many times have you seen that ... guy get put on that police car?" said Patricia Pareida, 21, of Paramount, referring to the Jackson videotape. "This guy died."
The city of Downey, declining comment, has hired the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton to deal with the shooting.
Police have previously offered a partial description of the events of early Feb. 15. According to police, a patrol officer tried to pull Martinez over in downtown Downey about 2 a.m., but Martinez fled onto the Golden State Freeway, then to the San Gabriel River Freeway, where he lost control and drove into an embankment.
As police approached the car on foot, Martinez backed his car toward them in an apparent attempt to run them over, according to official accounts. Police fired at him, then continued to give chase until Martinez's car crashed in a residential area.
Police ordered Martinez out of the car. As he exited, he raised his right arm but made what in a coroner's report is referred to as a "furtive" movement with his left arm. The officers opened fire with a wide range of weapons.
One used an MP-5, a machine gun that is modified to shoot three-burst rounds. It has only been fired once before by Downey police. Another officer fired nonlethal beanbag rounds from a shotgun, according to the coroner's document.
"This was like a visit from gunslingers in the Old West--they were just shooting," said Steve Lerman, an attorney representing Martinez's parents in their lawsuit against the city. "It's not like this guy was running through an alley firing at the cops. They were way outside the scope of what would be justifiable."