DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It was an apology one family had been waiting nearly 50 years to hear, and on Saturday, it finally came during an anniversary to mark the tragic murder of a 12-year-old boy at the hands of a Dallas officer.
“We gathered here today to remember a young boy, Santos Rodriguez, who was at the age of 12, taken from us in the most cruel way and the most unjust way,” a speaker at Saturday’s event said.
On that tragic day in 1973, Dallas officer Darrell Cain held a gun to Santos’ head, playing Russian roulette, while interrogating him and his brother over eight dollars stolen from a gas station vending machine.
The first time the officer pulled the trigger, the gun clicked. The second time, however, the gun fired and Santos was killed instantly.
The 12-year-old’s death sparked protests through the city. Cain was convicted of murder and sentenced to five years in prison but ended up serving half that sentence.
Since the events, Santos’ family never received a formal apology from the police department — until Saturday.
Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia attended the gathering and addressed Santos’ family, friends and the community directly. He spoke in Spanish and English.
“I realize that we have not healed as a city from the loss of Santos,” Garcia said.
He then said the words the 12-year-old’s family and the Hispanic community had been waiting to hear.
“On behalf of the Dallas Police Department, as a father, I am sorry… we are sorry that someone entrusted to protect you, someone that wore the same uniform as I wear today, took your son and David’s brother away by way of murder,” the police chief said.
“I will not allow this department to forget because in order to improve, we must learn from the dark moments of our past,” he added.
Garcia said he was surprised to learn the department had not previously apologized and that it was the least he could do to try and right a tragic wrong.