[su_note note_color=”#f7f7f7″]Note from the editor
A year before I started at El Tecolote, I was on a 49ers practice field in Santa Clara, living the miserable dream of a freelance sports writer. Roughly a dozen of us reporter, wise guys huddled around a then beloved Jim Harbaugh (the soon-to-be former head coach of the aforementioned 49ers) hoping for something good that was worth quoting.
He happily obliged: “I will die leaning on my staff,” Harbaugh said on June 11, 2013, quoting college football analyst Lou Holtz, who had quoted the biblical Abraham. Since taking the job as editor-in-chief at El Tecolote June on 11, 2014, I have—believe it or not—lived by that. We have produced 25 issues this year, including the one you’re holding here, and none of them would’ve been possible without my staff, or team. This 2014 El Tecolote Year in review is for my boss, Georgiana Hernandez, and all the editors and managers—Atticus Morris, Mabel Jimenez, Katie Beas and Johnny Garcia—who have had my back from the start. And to all of the writers, photographers, translators, interns and volunteers: Thanks for making my job easier.
Police conduct was a charged and highly visible topic nationwide in 2014. In March, Mission resident Alejandro Nieto, who worked as a security guard, was gunned down by SFPD officers who allegedly mistook his Tazer for a gun. While in Ferguson, Missouri, a black teenager named Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer who wasn’t tried. And earlier this year, video documentation of a white NYC police officer choking a black man named Eric Garner to death surfaced on the Internet, but a grand jury declined to indict the officer.
El Tecolote broke the news of Nieto’s death in Laura Waxmann’s “Latino gunned down by police, community outraged” (March 27 – April 9), and continued to follow the developing story in Waxmann’s “Family of Alejandro Nieto demands justice with lawsuit” (April 24 – May 7). While the police tried to divert attention from the story, hoping the public would forget, El Tecolote documented the struggle of Nieto’s family and close friends with its front page article “Community continues to fight for justice in Alex Nieto’s death” (Aug. 28 – Sept 10) by J.B. Evans. More than 6 months after Nieto’s tragic death, an official report from the Medical Examiner’s Office announced what everyone already knew; and El Tecolote reporter J.B. Evans wrote up the story “Report concludes Nieto death was a homicide” (Sept. 25 – Oct. 8). To date, the investigation into Nieto’s death has stalled and the names of the officers involved have not been released.
Ferguson / Michael Brown
On Aug. 9 an unarmed teenager named Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who claimed he was acting in self-defense. The incident ignited massive demonstrations in the largely black city of Ferguson, to which police and Missouri National Guard—in full riot gear—responded with tear gas, flash-bang grenades and other “less-than-lethal” munitions. The images of what followed—broadcast via social media— were horrifying and unforgettable. English copy editor Atticus Morris penned a commentary piece about the transformation of law enforcement from public servant to military force with “Latest police shooting a symptom of a larger problem” (Aug. 28 – Sept. 10).
Three months later a St. Louis grand jury declined to pursue legal action against Wilson for Brown’s death, and nationwide outrage ensued. Oakland, which has a long history of police violence, was rocked by demonstrations, which were covered by Santiago Mejia in “Oakland erupts: Ferguson verdict ignites violent protest” (Dec. 4 -17). El Tecolote also published a follow up commentary piece by Atticus Morris “Ferguson: Lessons about race and law enforcement” (Dec. 4 -17), which attempted to point to where the national discussion could move forward.
Following up its coverage from 2013, El Tecolote reported on the conclusion to the heart-breaking saga of Andy Lopez, the 13-year-old boy who was killed by sheriff’s deputy Erik Gelhaus, for holding a toy AK-47. As reported in “Deputy evades criminal charges in shooting minor” by Alexis Terrazas (July 17 -30), the Lopez case ended like the other police-shooting deaths of 2014: with the officer involved being cleared of any wrongdoing.