Santos Rodriguez was killed in 1973 by a Dallas police officer playing Russian roulette
The chief of the Dallas Police Department has apologized to the family of a 12-year-old Mexican American boy who was killed 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 in a police car when cop Darrell Cain shot Santos in the head while questioning over the theft of $8 from a gas station.
Fingerprint evidence later would show no connection of the boys to the gas station robbery.
Chief Eddie García formally apologized to Bessie Rodriguez, Santos’ 77-year-old mother, during a graveside memorial last weekend observing the 48th anniversary of Santos’ murder.
‘On behalf of the Dallas Police Department, as a father, I am sorry,’ said García, according to the Dallas Morning News. ‘We are sorry that someone trusted to protect you, someone who wore the same uniform I proudly wear today took your son and took David’s brother away by way of murder.’
Chief Eddie García formally apologized to Bessie Rodriguez, Santos’ 77-year-old mother, during a graveside memorial last weekend observing the 48th anniversary of Santos’ murder
Chief Garcia and his officers stood along side Santos’ mother Bessie at the ceremony
Bessie Rodriguez, Santos’ 77-year-old mother, has been attending the annual memorial ceremony since 2013, the 40th anniversary of the murder
Flowers are seen at the grave of Santos Rodriguez at the ceremony last Saturday
Cain, the Dallas cop who shot the 12-year-old, died in March 2019, the Dallas Morning News reported. He served only two-and-a-half years for the death.
It marked the first time a Dallas police chief has publicly apologized for the murder, though last year then-Police Chief U. Reneé Hall attended the memorial event, but she wasn’t allowed to speak.
Former Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings also gave an apology for the murder on behalf of the city of Dallas and the Dallas Police Department in 2013.
At last Saturday’s event, García and Ms. Rodriguez stood together as the police chief laid a wreath of white carnations with a blue ribbon inscribed with Dallas Police Department at Santos’ grave.
She later told the Morning News that García had been ‘very respectful’ and added ‘I have to forgive to be forgiven.’
In 1973, Santos was just 12 and living with his adoptive grandfather in Dallas while his mother served a five-year prison sentence for killing her boyfriend.
Officers Cain and Roy Arnold responded to a call about a burglary at a gas station at around 2am.
Officer Cain seemed certain that Santos (right) and 13-year-old David (left) were the robbers in a gas station burglary and went to the boys’ home to roust them
Officers Cain and Roy Arnold responded to a call about a burglary at a gas station (above) at around 2am on July 24, 1973
Robbers had broken in through a window and stole $8 from this cigarette vending machine
They claimed at the time that they didn’t encounter any suspects, but Arnold was later fired after he admitted firing a ‘warning shot’ at someone fleeing the area.
For reasons that are unclear, Cain seemed certain that Santos and 13-year-old David were the robbers and went to the boys’ home to roust them, handcuffing them in their pajamas and placing them in the police car.
Arnold was sitting in the driver’s seat, with Cain in the seat behind him, and Santos sat in the front passenger seat with his brother David in the rear passenger seat behind him.
Cain later testified that he believed he fully emptied his .357 Magnum revolver of bullets and planned to bluff the boys into confessing by pretending a bullet remained in the cylinder and playing Russian roulette with them.
Cain spun the cylinder on his revolver and snapped it shut, then put the gun to Santos’ head and demanded a confession in the gas station robbery, in which about $8 in change was stolen from a vending machine.
The boy’s final words were ‘I am telling the truth.’ Cain pulled the trigger, shooting Santos in the head. The boy was pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby hospital.
More than 5,000 community activists rallied in downtown Dallas on July 28, 1973, in protest of the murder of Santos Rodriguez
A July, 28 1973 march after the death of Santos Rodriquez erupted in violence in downtown Dallas. Five police officers were hospitalized and nearly 40 people arrested
An officer who retrieved Cain’s gun afterward found ‘five live rounds and one empty cartridge’ in the revolver, according to court records. Most .357 Magnum cylinders have six chambers, and it appears the gun was fully loaded.
Within hours of the shooting, Cain was suspended from the police force, and the following morning the police chief filed malice murder charges against him.
The Dallas Morning News said a jury had been given the option of sentencing Cain to life behind bars.
At trial, the jury found Cain guilty of murder with malice. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but only served the minimum of two and a half years before his release on good behavior.
A Dallas County prosecutor said at the time, according to the Morning News, that if Santos Rodriguez had killed Cain, the jury would have ‘thrown the book at him and locked him up and thrown away the key.’
Cain settled eventually in West Texas where he had a family, the Morning News reported; he died in March 2019, nine days short of his 76th birthday.
‘He concluded his career as an insurance claims adjuster where he enjoyed helping others when tragedy struck,’ his obituary read, according to the Morning News.
Fingerprint evidence from the gas station robbery later showed no connection to the Rodriguez brothers.
Since 2013, marking 40 years since the murder, Santos’ family and community members have held an annual memorial event by his grave on the anniversary of his death.
At last weekend’s event, García embraced Rodriguez after issuing an apology for the department.
“We must apologize as a Police Department, a department made up of mothers, fathers, daughters and sons,’ the chief said.