Santos Rodriguez was murdered in 1973 by a Dallas police officer who was playing Russian roulette
The Dallas Police Department has apologized to the family of a 12-year-old Mexican-American boy who was murdered in 1973 by a police officer who shot him while playing Russian roulette in an attempt to force a confession.
On July 24, 1973, Santos Rodriguez and his brother David were handcuffed to a police car when Officer Darrell shot Cain Santos in the head while questioning about the theft of $8 from a gas station.
Chief Eddie García officially apologized to Bessie Rodriguez, Santos’ 77-year-old mother, at a memorial service at the grave site last weekend, on the 48th anniversary of Santos’ murder.
“On behalf of the Dallas Police Department, as a father, I’m sorry,” García said, according to the… Dallas Morning News. “We’re sorry that someone you trusted, someone who wore the same uniform I proudly wear today, took your son and David’s brother for murder.”
Chief Eddie García apologized last weekend at a memorial service at the grave of Bessie Rodriguez, Santos’ 77-year-old mother, to mark the 48th anniversary of Santos’ murder.
Chief Garcia and his officers stood next to Santos’ mother Bessie during the ceremony
Bessie Rodriguez, Santos’ 77-year-old mother, has attended the annual memorial ceremony since 2013, the 40th anniversary of the murder.
Flowers are seen at the grave of Santos Rodriguez during the ceremony last Saturday
It was the first time a Dallas police chief has publicly apologized for the murder, although then-police chief U. Renée Hall attended the memorial last year, but she was not allowed to speak.
Former Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings also apologized for the 2013 murder on behalf of the City of Dallas and the Dallas Police Department.
At Saturday’s event, García and Ms. Rodriguez stood together as the police chief laid a wreath of white carnations with a blue ribbon engraved with the Dallas Police Department at Santos’ grave.
She later told the Morning News that García had been “very respectful,” adding, “I have to forgive to be forgiven.”
In 1973, Santos was just 12 years old and living with his adoptive grandfather in Dallas, while his mother was serving a five-year sentence for the murder of her boyfriend.
Officers Cain and Roy Arnold responded to a call about a break-in at a gas station around 2 a.m.
Agent Cain seemed certain that Santos (right) and 13-year-old David (left) were the robbers in a gas station break-in and went to the boys’ house to evict them.
Agents Cain and Roy Arnold responded to a call about a break-in at a gas station around 2 a.m. on July 24, 1973 (above).
Robbers broke through a window and stole $8 from this cigarette machine
They claimed to have encountered no suspects at the time, but Arnold was later fired after he admitted to firing a “warning shot” at someone fleeing the area.
For reasons unclear, Cain seemed certain that Santos and 13-year-old David were the robbers. He went to the boys’ house to harass them, cuff them in their pajamas and put them in the police car.
Arnold was in the driver’s seat, with Cain in the back seat, and Santos in the front passenger seat with his brother David in the rear passenger seat behind him.
Cain later testified that he believed he had completely emptied his .357 Magnum revolver of bullets and intended to bluff the boys into confessing by pretending a bullet was left in the cylinder and playing Russian roulette with them.
Cain turned the barrel of his revolver and slammed it shut, then put the gun to Santos’ head and demanded a confession to the gas station robbery, in which about $8 in change was stolen from a vending machine.
The boy’s last words were, “I’m telling the truth.” Cain pulled the trigger and shot Santos in the head. The boy was pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby hospital.
More than 5,000 community activists gathered in downtown Dallas on July 28, 1973, to protest the murder of Santos Rodriguez
A July 28, 1973 march following the death of Santos Rodriquez erupted into violence in downtown Dallas. Five police officers were hospitalized and nearly 40 people arrested
An officer who later recovered Cain’s pistol found “five cartridges and one empty cartridge” in the revolver, according to court records. Most .357 Magnum cylinders have six chambers and it appears that the gun was fully loaded.
Within hours of the shooting, Cain was suspended from the police force, and the next morning the police chief filed a charge of willful murder.
At trial, the jury found Cain guilty of intentional murder. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but only served the minimum of two and a half years before his release for good conduct.
Fingerprint evidence of the gas station robbery later showed no connection to the Rodriguez brothers.
Since 2013, marking the 40th anniversary of the murder, Santos’ family and community members have held an annual memorial at his graveside on the anniversary of his death.
At last weekend’s event, García hugged Rodriguez after apologizing to the department.
“We have to apologize as a police department, a department made up of mothers, fathers, daughters and sons,” the chief said.