Protestors say Orcutt shooting reflects "criminalization" of Santa Maria's indigenous community
A 19-year-old man was shot and killed by an off duty police officer in Orcutt last month. Some community members say it reflects the ongoing criminalization of indigenous groups in the Santa Maria area.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office report said an unnamed off-duty officer was inside the Melody Market in Orcutt, when a group of people outside the liquor store got into a physical confrontation.
The off-duty officer walked outside of the market and saw Manuel Reyes Rios shooting at members of the other group, striking one of them.
The report says the off-duty officer verbally identified himself as an officer and ordered Rios to stop shooting. When Rios continued shooting, the officer shot his gun three times. Rios was pronounced dead at the scene as the others fled.
Rios was an indigenous man from the Oaxaca region of southern Mexico. His death sparked a protest in Santa Maria this weekend by fellow members of the area’s indigenous community, who say they are too often the target of this kind of police violence.
Gemma Garcia is a Oaxaqueña woman who lives in Santa Maria. On Sunday, she joined a group of about 50 people on the corner of Broadway and Stowell to protest what they called the criminalization of Santa Maria’s indigenous community.
“The narrative that the police is releasing is really framing Jose Manuel because it's easier to immediately profile men of color into being violent and being a member of [a] gang rather than giving him the opportunity to really disclose what happened,” Garcia said.
Garcia said that when people are killed in these moments, there is no way to find out how the violence originated.
She said she protested to be seen as a real person in Santa Maria and wants police to thoroughly investigate these situations rather than criminalizing indigenous people and killing them on the spot.
“What is an ethical practice for someone that is off-duty?”
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office has not named the off-duty police officer, citing ongoing investigation.
In a statement to KCBX, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said, quote, “The Sheriff’s Office conducts thorough investigations into critical incidents that carefully balance informing the public with protecting the integrity of that investigation.”
The County Sheriff Office’s report is available here.