United States

What we know about the five Latinos killed by police last week

Officers fatally shot four men and a woman. So far this year, police have killed 100 Hispanics.
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She was a mother of three, including a two-month-old baby. On July 5, 24-year-old Melissa Ventura was shot and killed by two police officers in the doorway of her home in the border town of Yuma, Arizona.

According to initial news reports, Ventura suffered from mental illness. Around 8:00 p.m. last Tuesday, police responded to a domestic violence disturbance. Upon opening the door, Ventura “attacked the deputies with a knife,” according to the Yuma Police Department. The officers then “discharged their weapons,” killing the woman.

“The officers are now on administrative leave while Yuma Police investigates the incident,” Police Sergeant Lori Franklin told Univision News.

During a tumultuous week marked by the high-profile killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, Ventura was one of five young Hispanics killed by police between July 3 and July 7. Though the victims received scant national attention, the killings marked 100 Latinos killed by police this year, according to Killed by Police, a database that tracks killings by U.S. law enforcement. The Guardian’s The Counted database puts that number at 88, likely because local authorities don’t have the option of categorizing victims as Hispanic.

On July 4, officers in San Jose, California, responded to a call about 18-year-old Anthony Nuñez, who had grazed his head with a bullet in an apparent suicide attempt. After Nuñez pointed the gun at police, police shot and killed him.

“Now I have to bury my son,” Nuñez’s mother Sandy Sánchez told Univision's San Francisco affiliate on Tuesday. “For what? Why couldn't they taser him?”

San Jose police officer Eddie García said officials tried to speak to Nuñez and knew that he was suffering from mental illness. “They were forced to shoot when he pointed the gun at them,” Garcia said. Police were not wearing body cameras.

A GoFundMe fundraiser to help cover burial costs says: “Anthony ... had a challenging life having been raised by his grandparents who passed when he was 6. He was then taken in by his Tia and Tio [aunt and uncle] who took him in as their own. Anthony was a tender hearted young man, who wanted to join the military.”

On July 3, police in Reno, Nevada, shot and killed Raul Saavedra-Vargas, 24, after he refused to pull over when an officer tried to stop his car. According to local reports, he then swerved and nearly hit a second officer, who was on foot, before veering into a crowd at downtown Reno’s Biggest Little City Wing Fest – a popular chicken-eating festival.

That night, undercover officers shot and killed 19-year-old Pedro Villanueva in Fullerton, California, while investigating an illegal street-racing event. The officers had pursued Villanueva in an unmarked car and opened fire when Villanueva allegedly drove toward them. An 18-year-old passenger, also struck by police gunfire and hospitalized for his injuries, was released on Monday.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Villanueva’s friends “questioned the officers’ decision to follow the teenager with an unmarked car.” They contended Villanueva may not have known he was being pursued by police, “but rather feared he was being robbed on the dead-end street.”

The practice of firing at a moving car is forbidden in many police agencies, including San Francisco, Chicago and Denver, the Times reported. The U.S. Department of Justice has also advised police departments not to shoot at moving vehicles, even when a suspect is driving toward an officer.

On July 7, Vinson Ramos, 37, was shot and killed by police outside of a 7-Eleven near Los Angeles, after officers responded to an incident involving Ramos and a woman. The pair had been arguing and Ramos was reportedly holding a folding knife, and when he refused to put it down, the officers opened fire. The woman had a child with her, according to reports.

Melissa Ventura’s sister, Tiffany, told NBC affiliate KYMA her sister “lived for her kids .. she was the heart and soul of [the] family.” Ventura’s mom died in March, according to Facebook.

On Sunday, Jazmin Ramirez set up a GoFundMe campaign for Ventura’s family. “Although I didn’t personally know Melissa her story hits home being as I too fought with mental illnesses and am Latina,” Ramirez wrote.

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