The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is refusing to release eight boxes of records that could shed light on the death of Mexican American journalist Ruben Salazar, who was felled by a deputy's projectile 40 years ago. The records are older than the famous “Watergate tapes,” but the department, through spokesman Steve Whitmore, argued that releasing the records would set a bad legal precedent and that it would take too much manpower to go through all the documents.
The response came after the Los Angeles Times filed a California Public Records Act request identifying the information as belonging to the public.
Salazar, a former Times columnist and KMEX-TV news director, was seen as a rare mainstream journalist at the time who gave a voice to the Chicano movement. He was killed in an East Los Angeles bar by a deputy's projectile on Aug. 29, 1970 as an anti-Vietnam War rally he had been covering raged on the street.
Similar requests for information to the FBI and Los Angeles Police Department were met with documents that revealed that authorities had been monitoring his activities, according to the Times.
His death was officially ruled an accident, but some aren't satisfied with that conclusion — not as long as the sheriff's department holds out on information it possesses.
Salazar inspired the creation of the first Latino journalism group in the nation, CCNMA: Latino Journalists of California, which also gave rise to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. He has been honored with a U.S. stamp, and his name graces schools, libraries and scholarships.