40 years after son's death, Bessie Rodriguez surprised by Dallas mayor's apology

Roberto Corona and Rick Halperin of SMU's Embrey Human Rights Program comment on Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings's apology over the weekend for the murder of Santos Rodriguez by a police officer 40 years ago.

Staff Writers

Forty years after 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez was shot in the head by a Dallas police officer, Mayor Mike Rawlings apologized Saturday for the tragedy that still resonates among the city’s Hispanic community.

“I got a lot of questions about apologizing for the death of Santos Rodriguez,” Rawlings said in his closing remarks of the Conversations about Race event. “I don’t have any clue why this city hasn’t apologized for that. There’s no excuse for that. And on behalf of the citizens of Dallas, the Dallas City Council, the Dallas Police Department, we wholeheartedly apologize for the death of Santos Rodriguez.”

Rawlings made the apology in his closing remarks of this first panel conversation in the series, which focused on media and how they can affect racial relations. Panelists were journalists in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. . .

As the 40th anniversary of the July 24 murder neared this summer, various activists organized community events to memorialize the 12-year-old who was taken in the middle of the night for an interrogation by two police officers. The officer, Darrell Cain, was convicted of murder with malice in Austin by a jury that contained no Mexican-Americans, a family member said.

Hadi Jawad, an activist with the Dallas Peace Center and one of the organizers of memorials, said he would help arrange for formal meetings between the mother and the mayor. . .

Jawad worked with Roberto Corona and Rick Halperin of Southern Methodist University’s Embrey Human Rights Program to organize two memorial events.

Corona said he wasn’t expecting to hear the words from Rawlings on Saturday morning.

“I think it is a good step towards continuing the dialogue on race in the city of Dallas and into healing of the community. I think I was not expecting that to happen there in public,” he said.

While Halperin said before the panel discussion that he did not expect an apology, he’s grateful there was one, and sees it as the beginning of moving forward.

“I applaud the mayor’s apology and hope that it will serve as a catalyst for further dialogue with other families whose unarmed sons have also been killed by Dallas police officers in the years since the Rodriguez shooting,” he said. “At long last, the process of reconciliation and healing that is necessary to bring about true racial justice in this city can now begin.”

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