Slain journalist’s daughter slams report on her father’s death

Ruben Salazar was one of five late journalists honored with a postage stamp in 2007.
Ruben Salazar was one of five late journalists honored with a postage stamp in 2007. Kevin Wolf/AP Image

The daughter of slain journalist Ruben Salazar cast doubt Sunday on a report that concludes there’s no evidence her father was targeted by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, and called for the evidence to be made public.

Salazar, a columnist and KMEX news director, was killed Aug. 29, 1970, at the Silver Dollar Cafe while taking a break from covering a demonstration held to protest the disproportionate number of Latinos being killed in the Vietnam War.

While sitting in the bar having a drink with another journalist, he was shot in the head by a tear gas projectile fired by a sheriff’s deputy. The other journalist, William Restrepo, has repeatedly said deputies were following them before they entered the bar.

Sheriff’s deputies said they were responding to a report of an armed man in the bar, and the deputy who fired the tear gas, Thomas Wilson, told investigators he did not know who Salazar was or that he was in the cafe.

The 20-page report is to be released Tuesday by the Office of Independent Review and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department, but the Los Angeles Times obtained a draft copy of the document and reported on its findings Sunday.

Salazar’s youngest daughter, Stephanie Salazar Cook, issued a statement Sunday afternoon saying she doubts the report will end speculation that her father was assassinated because of his reporting on Latino issues.

“While I appreciate this gesture, I found that the report ultimately asks more questions than it answers,” Cook said. “After 40 years of secrecy, self-serving analysis and incomplete information, I, my family and the public deserve more than what it provides.”

She said that last October, Sheriff Lee Baca allowed her family to see eight boxes of unsorted documents related to the case, but they were not allowed to reveal what was in the boxes.

“I, Ruben Salazar’s youngest daughter, strongly request the release of the eight boxes to the public so that they can be reviewed at length by historians, lawyers and other experts,” she said.

“March 3, 2011, would have been my father’s 83rd birthday. I believe this would be an appropriate date for the LASD to relinquish the materials it has kept secret for so long.”

In the more than 40 years since Salazar’s death, his slaying has been shrouded in controversy, criticism and suspicion that he was under surveillance by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and was specifically targeted during the demonstration.

The report acknowledges that it is impossible to determine whether Salazar was a target due to the limitations of the initial investigation.

“The failure to focus on any aspects of the incident beyond the immediate question of how Mr. Salazar died and the lack of any subsequent internal review by the department, however, left many questions unanswered and opened the door for decades of speculation about what the department may have been trying to hide,” the draft document states.

Salazar was a reporter, columnist and foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times from 1959 to 1970 before leaving to become KMEX’s news director.

His slaying is considered a pivotal moment in the Mexican American civil rights movement. Since his death, parks and schools have been named after him, and a postage stamp was issued in his honor.

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