The tracks of our tears Attending 'Memorial for the Fallen' for victims of police killings

by George Gold
guest commentary July 24

While this great Smokey Robinson song isn’t directly related to the event held yesterday honoring some of the precious lives lost at the hands of the Chico Police Department, there were tears in the room as we listened to the parents, uncles, brothers and sisters tell stories of people who should be alive today.

photo by Karen Laslo
At left, Gabriel Sanchez is now 17 and was only 10 when his father, Eddie Gabriel ‘Gabe’ Sanchez, was killed by Chico police. At right is Gabe Sanchez’s stepmother, Sheryl Sanchez.

If we could just get our police to grow some humanity and some skills in how to de-escalate difficult interactions between police and our neighbors, we might see some progress.

Police and de-escalation? So far, over the last 10 years, our police have not practiced and applied de-escalation techniques. Our police have not changed their tactics, they have not reduced their lethal weapons cache nor their apparent desire to use them. The last several Chico police chiefs claim that all Chico police officers have taken de-escalation training, but from the overwhelming evidence it is clear they have not learned how to apply their classroom training to their conduct in the field.

There is little or no progress on real police reform in the City of Chico or in Butte County. What a disappointment. What a disgrace.

photo by Karen Laslo
Paula Rushing, mother of the late Tyler Rushing, spoke five years after her son was shot to death by police and an armed security guard.

Newly elected Butte County Supervisor Peter Durfee’s campaign flyer, sent to my house, shows him glaring at the camera with his hand on his gun. This new Butte County supervisor, a Chico police officer who says he will not leave his police job … will he hand out his form of justice ostensibly at the barrel of a gun? What a disappointment. What a disgrace.

Yesterday, Scott and Paula Rushing organized a memorial for all of the families, survivors of loved ones who were shot and killed at the hands of police violence. They gathered in Chico to remember those precious lives. Say their names: Desmond Phillips, Tyler Rushing, Myra Micalizio, Gabe Sanchez, Breanne Sharpe, Andrew Thomas, Stephen Vest. And don’t forget the unsolved murder of Marc Thompson.

photo by Karen Laslo
David Phillips, father of the slain Desmond Phillips, said: “They’ve taken our babies, and we’re trying to stop them from taking yours.”

We have had some victories. ChicoSol journalist Dave Waddell has prevailed in a lawsuit against the City of Chico regarding the City’s failure to provide public records access to data about police violence; the City will pay his attorney over $43,000 in legal fees, thereby cracking open the conspiracy of silence here in our City and County. Scott Rushing has prevailed at the United States Supreme Court in his suit against the City of Chico regarding police actions in the killing of Tyler Rushing; now there will be a trial.

There is work to do. Maybe someday, the tracks of our tears will end and justice will prevail.

George Gold is a Chico resident, a police reform activist and an occasional contributor to ChicoSol.
Video from the Memorial for the Fallen, held July 23 at Trinity United Methodist Church, has been posted on ChicoSol’s Facebook page here.

5 thoughts on “The tracks of our tears Attending 'Memorial for the Fallen' for victims of police killings

  1. Ellen, I am happy for you that your experiences with Chico PD have been positive. That does not bring back the five beloved people whose lives were taken at the hands of those same police. (And one life taken by paradise PD ) Only one was held accountable by Butte County’s DA Mike Ramsey, who never saw a police killing he wouldn’t exonerate. After huge public outcry Patrick Feaster, who shot Andrew Thomas, was held accountable to the tune of three months in jail for killing a man in cold blood who was no threat to anyone.

    We live in a violent culture. Law enforcement all over our country enacts that violence over and over again, shooting when they should intervene with compassion and understanding, or at least utilize nonlethal weapons to quiet someone down.

    Thank you, George Gold, for an excellent article recounting the moving event that occurred in memory of six who were taken too early. And many thanks to Paula and Scott Rushing for making it happen.

  2. Thank you Trinity Church Scott&Paula Rushing ChicoSol DAVE&LESLIE and all impacted families and all in attendance for such an powerful and important event. and responding to Ellen all I can say to you is SAD you are so confused I will pray for you.

  3. I was honored to attend this event. I had tears and feel for everyone in this violent , tragic environment. We must make it stop. Transparentcy and teaching our children are the 1st stages in change Hate and cover up mentality just is unconscionable. For us all we must stand in support of these families. I was thrilled Paula Rushing was able to come and speak. She moved me as Scott does. Thank you Paula

  4. Thank you very much George Gold for covering this event in such a caring way! Your intuition was so right on, about using the reference to Smokey Robinson’s song, since this singer was the favorite of Gabe Sanchez’s mother, Mary Romero, back in the day. We are sure it was a difficult day for everyone at the event that day, to share their memories of their loved ones who were killed in the many officer-involved shootings through out the years. But we hope it will be part of the healing journey to meet and share with other families in similar situations, also in the hope that these officer-involved shootings will lead both to justice for a loved one and to the possibility that educating the public about such things will lead to real change in the Chico PD and law enforcement agencies in Butte County! Thanks to Scott and Paula Rushing for organizing the event also, it was an especially hard day for them being the 5 year anniversary of the death of their son, Tyler Rushing. And thanks also to Dave Waddell and Leslie Layton for such important journalism, and to all the others who actually care about police reform, may the community around us help bring justice to many families who should not have lost family members to trigger-happy officers.

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