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For almost 2 years the parents of James Earl Rivera Jr. have been asking why 2 Stockton Police officers and 1 county sheriff opened fire with semi-automatic weapons including an AR-15 assault rifle on their unarmed 16 year old son. To this day James’ family has not received a police report or even a coroner's report, let alone a simple apology for James’ untimely death.
Without an official report or investigation, James’ mother, Dionne Smith-Downs has had to piece together an understanding of what happened to her son through a series of eyewitness accounts, none of which indicate that the police had any justification for opening fire on James.
On the morning of July 22, 2010 James was seen driving a blue van near his neighborhood in Stockton while being tailed by an unmarked vehicle. James was followed until his van was cutoff and then rammed by multiple police cars forcing James to lose control and crash through two metal mailboxes and then through the walls of two adjacent single car garages. The van remained lodged in the side of the garage until it was removed by a tow truck with police supervision later that night.
With James’ van lodged into the side of a garage and James presumably injured from the impact, 2 Stockton Police officers, Gregory Dunn and Eric Azarvand, and John Nesbitt of the San Joaquin Sheriff’s Department surrounded James’ van and opened fire with 48 rounds, 19 of which pierced James’ body. James was already dead and his body mutilated by the time the officers removed him from the van.
James was unarmed and posed no threat to himself, his community, or the officers who took his life.
Without any explanation from the Stockton Police or the San Joaquin Sheriff’s Department for the brutal attack on this innocent young African American boy one can only assume that the act was a hate crime that has since been ignored by the local justice system through a series of cover ups.
And so for the last 22 months Dionne Smith-Downs along with James’ entire family have been left to grieve without any explanation for James’ death. In the words of Smith-Downs,
It hurts because as a parent when your son was shot like that, and there is still no answers. There is still no closure. And then I go to the police station and City Hall, and they tell me "talk to this guy" and then "talk to that guy" … I miss my son. He cooked breakfast. He'd help get [his brothers and sisters] ready for school. He'd meet them after school on his bike and bring them home… If I'm hurting, I know they're hurting worse than me.
James is remembered fondly by his family as a kind hearted, helpful, happy, and outgoing boy who loved his brothers and sisters. He was very skilled with mechanics and technology. At home he was always happy to fix any malfunction whether it was a motor-scooter, a computer, or a loose screw on a table. He loved people and quickly earned the friendship of anyone he met. His death was a tragic and unnecessary loss to his family and community.
We call upon U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to start an investigation into the unjust and unwarranted shooting of James Earl Rivera Jr. by the Stockton Police and San Joaquin Sheriff’s Department and to provide the family of James Earl Rivera Jr. with a police report, coroner’s report and the Police Dashcam footage from the incident.
2013-01-08 "Mobilize for JUSTICE 4 JAMES RIVERA and all Victims of Police Terror"
Dionne Smith Downs (James Rivera's mama) and other mothers are calling out for support on Jan. 8 in Stockton, when the new mayor will be sworn in.
PLEASE HELP STAND WITH THESE MOTHERS IN STOCKTON CA
For more information on the Car Caravan of Justice from Oakland, please call Ms. Smith-Downs at [209-518-7997]. Folks coming from out of town should plan to meet at the courthouse in Stockton at 4:00 p.m., 425 N. El Dorado Street, STOCKTON. People in Stockton and Central Valley please meet at 2:00 p.m. at the courthouse in Stockton.
Dionne has yet to receive any documents from the city that purport to explain why the cops who were involved in her son's murder were absolved of accusations of wrongdoing. And she has yet to receive from the city any documents that purport to explain the circumstances under which her son was released from the juvenile facility from which he was alleged to have escaped.
James Rivera's family demands that the Stockton Police and the District Attorney immediately give them the following:
* All of James' personal property
* The police report
* The police car dashcam video
* An independent investigation into the assassination of James Rivera, Jr. in July of 2010 by Stockton Police and San Joaquin County Sheriffs.
JUSTICE FOR EARNEST DUENEZ, JAMES RIVERA, LUTHER BROWN, ALAN BLUEFORD and all victims of police terror. They shoot us down, we shut them down
****SHUT 'em DOWN****
2012-05-17 "Justice for James Rivera; Police Murder in Stockton, Ca."
by Earl Black [http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/05/17/18713706.php]:
On July 22, 2010, 16 year old James Earl Rivera, Jr. was shot and killed in a hail of 48 bullets fired by Stockton PD Officers, Gregory Nunn and Eriz Azavard and San Joaquin County Sheriff Deputy John Nesbit. Unarmed James Rivera was driving at normal speed to his home when he was rammed and turned around by a Stockton police car. A second police car rammed him again, pushing him through two neighboring garages and immobilizing his car. Witnesses at the scene say the crash through the garages would have easily injured James seriously. The three officers exited their vehicles and positioning themselves on both sides and behind (the seriously injured) James, opened fire with 48 rounds from 2 (9mm) handguns and a AR-15 Army Assault rifle. 19 of the 48 bullets hit the 16 year old Black youth on both sides of his body and in the back of his head. His mother followed the ambulance to the hospital and was threatened by police dogs and forced out of the hospital when she demanded to see her sons body. Two years after the brutal assassination style killing of James Rivera, the police have still not released a report to the family. Witnesses have stated that James was stopped by Stockton police and let go minutes before he was killed. Police claimed they shot Rivera because they thought he would back his car up and was a threat to them. It is clear from pictures of the crime scene that it was impossible for James' car to move. In fact, police had to use a tow truck to pull James car over the debris of the crash and out of the garage. This video contains disturbing images of the deceased after being rammed through two garages and shot 19 times. View with discretion.
In this video, both parents appeal to their communities to stand up against police brutality before their loved ones are killed.
James Rivera Justice Campaign in Stockton violently attacked by Police [link], 2014-06-02
Solidarity with all who stand tall for justice! Photos 2014-06-02 in Stockton:
2012-04-10 "JUSTICE FOR JAMES RIVERA"
16 year old black youth murdered by Stockton Police and San Joaquin Sheriffs on July 22, 2010
To date the family still has not gotten any of their son’s personal items back from the police or a coroner’s report. AFTER 1 ½ YEARS!!! THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!!!
We demand that the family be treated with dignity and respect as they continue their quest for justice for James Rivera.
Join Family and Friends in Remembrance of James Rivera, Jr., at a MASS RALLY AT THE STOCKTON CITY HALL
FREE Roundtrip bus rides to Stockton Rally leaving from 19th & Telegraph – Oakland
Arrive at 11:30 a.m. to board the buses on April 10th - bus leaves Oakland at 12 noon
Bus leaves Stockton for Oakland at 6 pm
Limited seats available, call 510- 239-7720 & reserve a seat on the bus
Donations requested for a headstone for James' grave.
CONTACT: Dionne Smith-Downs, email@example.com OR 209-518-7997
* 500 people showed up, mostly locals from Stockton
* West Oakland contingent to the event, with the OO-TAC, in 2 buses, is shadowed by California Highway Patrol all the way back to the Eastbay.
2012-04-10 "Hundreds Protest Outside Stockton Police Station; Family Members Of Victims Rally At Police Station"
STOCKTON, Calif. (KCRA) -- The families of a Stockton teenager and a man who were fatally shot by police officers held a march and rally against what they say is police brutality.
Hundreds marched to the Stockton Courthouse and then to the Stockton Police station on Tuesday, including family members of Luther Brown Jr. and James Rivera.
Two busloads of "Occupy Oakland" protesters also joined the march and rally.
At 3:15 p.m., KCRA 3's Melinda Meza reported that police wearing riot gear declared the protest an unlawful assembly.
The crowd then marched to Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
At least one person involved in the protest was arrested.
As the crowd grew, several businesses in the downtown Stockton area shut down, and several roads were blocked off.
Brown was shot by officers in North Stockton on Friday after police said they attempted to pull over the driver of a Toyota Camry who did not have license plates.
Police said the driver, later identified as Brown, 32, was a documented gang.
Stockton police spokesman Pete Smith told KCRA 3 Brown took one of the officer's batons and hit him with it, at which point the other officer fired his weapon.
Rivera was 16 years old when police fired into the van Rivera was driving. Officers said they opened fire because Rivera was trying to back over them with the vehicle.
No charges were brought against the three officers, two police and one sheriff deputy, in connection with the shooting.
A lawsuit was filed against the city by the family.
After the protest ended both families spoke during the public comment portion of Tuesday night's city council meeting. They demanded justice.
2012-04-10 "Occupy Oakland Joins March in Stockton, Police in Riot Gear Respond" from "FOX40 News"
Demonstrators protesting the death of Luther Brown, a Stockton man who was killed in an officer-involved shooting Friday afternoon, were joined by Occupy Oakland and the Oscar Grant Committee Tuesday afternoon.
Between 150 and 200 people packed Martin Luther King Park, across the street from Stockton City Hall. Around 50 Stockton Police officers donned riot gear.
Fremont Street between Center and El Dorado Streets is blocked off.
Officer Pete Smith told FOX40 that a few protestors tried to get the protest "revved up" and violent, but said his department was able to have enough officers deployed to prevent that.
The protest is against police brutality. Demonstrators say what happened to Brown is similar to what happened to Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch man.
Demonstrators are also protesting the officer-involved death of James Rivera, who was killed in the summer of 2010. Rivera’s family says he was unarmed when he was killed by Stockton Police. Many are upset with Occupy Oakland and blame them for the police response.
Police arrested only one person at the demonstration after she sat in the roadway and refused to get up. Angela Hartnell, 27, was arrested for resisting arrest.
Demonstrators packed Tuesday's City Council meeting, and their presence was felt.
"(If) We don't have a change in the next few years, I'm going to be sure to be running for your seat because I want a change in my city," said one protester.
Demonstrators in Stockton's Martin Luth King Park ( April 10, 2012 )
Police in Riot Gear Respond to Protest near City Hall ( April 10, 2012 )
2012-04-10 "Protesters march against Stockton police shootings" by Leigh Paynter from "News10 San Joaquin Valley"
STOCKTON, CA - A protest march against the Stockton police quickly intensified when the police entered the streets.
Approximately 250 protestors, several bused in from Oakland, stopped traffic Tuesday afternoon and confronted police officers at their own headquarters off of El Dorado Street. Police called it an "unlawful assembly" and sent officers out in helmets, shields and batons to move the crowd down the street.
The crowd was organized by families of young men shot and killed by police officers.
Luther Brown Jr. was killed on April 6 by Stockton police after officials said he gave chase during a traffic stop, resisted arrest and stole one officer's baton. The second officer shot Brown several times, stating he feared for his partner's life. Brown's family disputes that claim and use of deadly force.
"He didn't have time to grab nothing," Brown's sister Donna Brown said. "They lied and we got key witnesses and we're going to see about that when we get to court."
The family of James Rivera, who was shot and killed by police in July 2010, also challenged the officers' version of events, which led up to Rivera's death.
"The day before, they came to my sister's house saying they were looking for him," Rivera's uncle Loummba Rigmaden said. "Probably less than 10 hours later, he's dead."
Rigmaden said Rivera led officers on a chase, but crashed into a garage. Rigmaden believes Rivera was unconscious after the crash, which is why he didn't step out of the car when officers gave him commands. Rigmaden claims the officers opened fire on an unarmed Rivera. His family is still waiting for the autopsy report.
Stockton police officials have said both officer-involved-shootings were in self-defense, making the killings justifiable.
"All they got to do is say, 'We feared for our life,' and that's it. It's justifiable in the eyes of the law," Rigmaden said.
Occupy Stockton and Occupy Oakland joined the march saying they were here to protest a bigger problem, the lack of support from city officials to create solutions for street problems.
"There's less and less cops, so there's less and less ability to react to violence," Occupy Stockton's Echo Faux said. "A lot of them are getting jumpy."
One protester was handcuffed after refusing to get up off of the street and others were physically forced to keep moving.
Community activists stepped in to calm both protesters and police. Both groups marched down El Dorado Street to the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza across from city hall without an incident.
Police stayed at the scene until after 5 p.m. when protesters gradually left the park.
While the march ended Tuesday evening, protesters said the fight doesn't end at sunset.
2012-01-06 "STOCKTON ACTION REPORT- STOP POLICE TERROR" from "Diablo Valley Movement / Students for a Democratic Society (MDS/SDS)"
Mothers Cry for Justice, James Rivera family, Ernest Duenez family, Oscar Grant Committee, Modesto Copwatch, MDS/SDS [Movement and Students for a Democratic Society] and the Nation of Islam united to sponsor this spirited and loud protest action in downtown Stockton demanding answers from the DA who has remained silent about the police killing of unarmed youth & adults. Sisters Bianca & Sharena kept up the powerful outrage by leading chants.
Local youths insisted on carrying the SDS banner.
OGC and MDS brought out 8 people and 40 memes guns [picket signs] from the East Bay. It was militant action with no arrests even tho the police mobilized and pushed back the rally for a few minutes before leaving. The locals felt empowered by the action and thanked the the East Bay folks for our support.
Demonstrators in front of the San Joaquin County Courthouse chant “We want justice for James Rivera” on Friday afternoon in Stockton.
2012-01-07 "Protesters say officers' fatal clashes unnecessary" by Jennie Rodriguez-Moore from the "Modesto Record"
STOCKTON - Demonstrators held signs and chanted "No justice, no peace" ["No Killer Police" -MDS/SDS] outside the courthouse Friday afternoon.
Rosemarie Duenez said she wants an investigation completed on the June 8 shooting of her son, 31-year-old Ernest Duenez Jr., by Manteca police
"We are still waiting for the D.A.'s Office to wrap up the case," said the 57-year-old mother.
The county District Attorney's Office conducts reports on fatalities involving law enforcement officers, but limited resources has led to a backlog in cases, prosecutors have said.
Manteca police have contended that Duenez, a parolee, was stopped for a traffic violation but advanced on officers with a weapon.
His family sees it differently. "We did get a police camera video of the incident," Rosemarie Duenez said. She said her son was not armed.
Duenez's relatives were part of a Friday demonstration of about 30 [60 really -frh ] participants, organized by the Oscar Grant Committee Against Police Brutality & State Repression, a group honoring a man killed by BART police in 2009.
The Stockton gathering is part of a statewide effort to mobilize supporters and spread awareness.
"When the state kills, it's a serious matter," said Oakland activist Gerald Smith, who spoke to the crowd Friday. "We are not going to accept the state-sponsored murder against our people."
One of the examples used during the protest in Stockton was the fatal shooting of 16-year-old James Rivera Jr.
Rivera was shot to death by Stockton police and a San Joaquin County sheriff's deputy on July 22, 2010, while behind the wheel of a stolen van that had crashed into a garage after a high-speed chase. Police said the van was coming toward them.
Smith said killing Rivera was unnecessary. "He was a child," Smith said.
Friday's rally was peaceful but did require some law-enforcement resources to direct the protesters away from a doorway of the courthouse that they were blocking.
2011-07-23 "Protest marks year since teen's death" by Christian Burkin[http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110723/A_NEWS/107230333/-1/A_SPECIAL0288]
STOCKTON - One year after 15-year-old James Rivera Jr. was killed by police after a chase through a north Stockton neighborhood, dozens of people demonstrated across the street from the Police Department on Friday morning, calling for greater transparency and an end to what they called police brutality.
The demonstrators included Rivera's relatives and friends, as well as Bay Area activists. Some carried a mock coffin from a truck to the corner of El Dorado and Washington streets. Others held signs calling for justice and invoking other officer-involved killings, including that of Oscar Grant III, shot in the back by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle on New Year's Day 2009.
An uncle of Grant's, Cephus "Uncle Bobby" Johnson, drove from Oakland to Stockton to join the demonstration Friday morning. Johnson said he had been following officer-involved killings closely since his nephew's, for which Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
"They have a tendency to tell you one thing and then change the story," Johnson said.
Rivera was shot and killed by Stockton police and a Sheriff's deputy after a chase that ended when the vehicle he was driving, a minivan taken in an armed carjacking, was rammed by police, causing it to crash into a house. Police have said Rivera was attempting to reverse rapidly when officers opened fire on the minivan. The carjacker had reportedly been armed with a shotgun, but no weapon was recovered from the minivan.
Some of Rivera's family members have said he told them he had bought the van. His mother, Dionne Smith-Downs, said Friday that if she had heard that from him, she would have demanded proof. She also said she believed other people, not her son, had committed the carjacking.
Smith-Downs said she is frustrated that her son's property has not yet been returned to her, and that the investigation has not been completed.
"It's been a year now. I should have some kind of answer," she said.
The investigation of the shooting includes the District Attorney's Office, the Sheriff's Office and the Police Department. It is not unusual for officer-involved shooting investigations to take up to a year in San Joaquin County.
Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau said the investigation has been slowed by budget cuts at the District Attorney's Office, particularly the loss of about 30 percent of its staff. Prosecutors are also dealing with a sharp increase in homicides.
"We don't have the attorneys. We have a higher case load, and we're in trial nonstop," he said.
Smith-Downs has sued Stockton and its Police Department over the killing of her son, but that lawsuit has twice been returned by the court for revisions to the paperwork. She is represented by John Burriss, the Oakland attorney who represented the family of Oscar Grant and who is representing the family of 34-year-old Ernest Duenez Jr., shot and killed by Manteca police on June 8.
Smith-Downs said she has been involved with activism targeting perceived police brutality since her son's killing.
"I want to get the word out: Stand up! Speak up!" she said.
Dionne Smith-Downs, mother of James Rivera, was one of the dozens of demonstrators who gathered across from the Stockton Police Department on Friday, the anniversary of the shooting of 15-year-old Rivera. CALIXTRO ROMIAS/The Record