Question is raised – is this our ‘Trayvon Martin’?
Nearly two hundred people attended the vigil for Valeria “Munique” Tachiquin Alvarado in Chula Vista Monday early evening. Family, friends, supporters and strangers – and the media – gathered at the intersection of Moss Street and Oaklawn Avenue – where she was shot to death by a plainclothes border patrol agent on Friday afternoon, September 28th, while in her car.
The 32 year old mother of 5 had been fatally killed during some kind of interaction with the agent. Reports of what happened differed wildly. And during the at times emotional vigil family members, including the young woman’s father, called for answers and justice.
Speaking first, Christian Ramirez of the American Friends Service Committee spoke about the evening being a sober one. He said the community vigil “was called by the family to remember her life and bear testimony to the tragedy that occurred 72 hours ago. They demand justice.”
Ramirez called upon the Chula Vista police department investigating the shooting to release information on the agent – “We’re waiting,” he said, “to hear their response.”
“We’re here to let the family know they don’t stand alone. We won’t allow this kind of violence go without a response. It’s important to return to the location to reclaim it, to reclaim the life of Munique.”
Valeria’s father, Valentine, spoke next. Speaking in both English and Spanish, he thanked each person there for sharing “our pain. This is a great outpouring from the community.” Then in Spanish, he cried, “There are consequences for their actions!” to the murmurs of agreement from the crowd. He was born in TJ, he said, came to this country, and “moved to Chula Vista, had three kids. The community embraced me,” he said. “I’m so much a part of this community, that my daughter died here.” There weren’t many dry eyes.
Valentine went on:
“This is a political thing. They’re going to make my daughter look bad. Her character is not in question. The question is that they need to answer is ‘who killed her?’”
He said “the family will always be grateful because you guys are here.”
Antonio, Valeria’s brother, also thanked the crowd. He was about to be deployed as a US Army reservist when he sister was gunned to death. “All we are asking for is justice and dignity,” he said, and continued:
“There’s no hate or anger in my heart. If they [border patrol] made a mistake – anywhere that day – that they own up to it.”
Mingling in the crowd before the speakers began, I ran into a young man who had made a YouTube video rant about Valeria’s death. Considering himself a citizen video journalist, he and an associate had been out interviewing witnesses to the shooting. They had spoken to a dozen, he estimated. “The witnesses are scarred,” he told me. “There’s a lot of intimidation going on out there.” I had earlier heard from several people that after the shooting, border patrol agents had handcuffed witnesses.
This videographer – who will remain anonymous – told me that to a person, all the witnesses he spoke to totally disagreed with the border patrol version of the events that had transpired last Friday afternoon.
The current version is that the shooter was an un-uniformed border patrol agent serving a felony warrant in the neighborhood. He was not serving any warrants on Valeria – who is definitely a US citizen. She just happened to be in the neighborhood visiting. The official version has her running the agent down with her car – him jumping up on her hood – and she driving down Moss Street for “several hundred yards” with him clinging to the hood.
“Fearing for his life, he discharged his weapon to get the vehicle to stop,” Border Patrol Deputy Chief Rodney Scott claimed to the media.
The witnesses the journalist I spoke with said that they witnessed different parts of what happened. But they all agreed to disagree with the official version. He said:
“The [agent] shot her while she was backing up. He wasn’t on her hood.”
And to add more insult, no one rushed to give her aid – “she was still alive, still moving,” the videographer said. They just let her lie there, he added sadly.
More than one person raised the issue of whether Valeria’s shooting was “our Trayvon Martin case”. And this all depends on what the ultimate response is from the Border Patrol and the Chula Vista Police doing the investigation. The community and the family await this answer … and every minute is an eternity.