About 20 protesters attended Santa Ana’s City Council meeting Tuesday night to demand answers about the fatal police shooting of Ernesto Javier Canepa Diaz, a 28-year-old Mexican immigrant who was killed during a robbery investigation over the weekend.
Few details have emerged about the incident. Santa On Tuesday, Santa Ana Police told the Orange County Register that Canepa was accused of robbing a 63-year-old woman on Feb. 13 while she was loading her grandchildren into a car in the 2300 block of N. Louise St.
On Friday, police officers located a white van that was believed to be shown in security camera footage of the robbery and approached the vehicle. At some point thereafter, officers confronted Canepa and shot him to death.
Police Chief Carlos Rojas told the Register that Canepa had become “uncooperative at some point.” Rojas added that a “replica firearm” was found inside Canepa’s van, but said he did not know whether it played a role in the officer’s decision to use deadly force.
Humberto Guizar, an attorney with the firm Guizar, Henderson & Carrazco, LLP, which is representing the Canepa family, dismissed the gun finding as a hollow attempt to blame the victim for his own death, and said that the police need to answer questions about Canepa’s actions just before the shooting.
“So?” Guizar said in response to Rojas’ claim. “Did he have a gun in his hand?… Was he assaulting them?”
Another attorney with the firm, Angel Carrazco, said Canepa was unarmed, according to witness accounts.
The lack of explanation so far has angered members of Canepa’s family and other protesters who attended the council meeting. They held signs saying “we want answers” and “we want justice for Ernesto & his kids.”
Frustration at the police was also palpable. Outside the council chambers, Canepa’s brother Andres Canepa quietly held a sign saying “Fuck The Police,” a refrain that has become common in protests across the country as communities grapple with the aftermath of fatal encounters between police and mostly minority young men.
Earlier in the day, during an interview with reporters at the offices of the Canepas’ attorneys, Andres Canepa said his dislike of police officers has grown since his brother’s death.
“They’re a gang with a badge,” Andres Canepa said.
Carolyn Torres, with the Latino group Chicanos Unidos, blamed the shooting on a policing model that she said turns entire communities into enemies of the state.
“It’s only a hop, skip and a jump from being treated badly to being shot,” Torres said.
Meanwhile, the Mexican government has called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the killings of three of its citizens by police on American soil in less than a month, including the slaying of Canepa, according to media reports.
The Mexican Foreign Ministry presumed the incidents to be examples of police officers using excessive force and expressed “profound consternation and irritation” at the shooting deaths, Newsweek reported.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of the law firm Guizar, Henderson & Carrazco, LLP. We regret the error.