On behalf of filmmaker Phillip Rodriguez, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) filed legal action against Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca who has refused access to the files on the 40 year old case of Journalist Ruben Salazar. Salazar, whose life will be documented in the LPB funded film THE RUBEN SALAZAR PROJECT, was the first Mexican American columnist for the Los Angeles Time and at the time of his death was KMEX news director. The prominent journalist was tragically killed in 1970 by a tear-gas projectile fired by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy after covering the Chicano Moratorium march.
Since August 1970, the slaying of Ruben Salazar remains a mystery and the case has not been solved. “Unresolved issues remain about the controversial killing of Salazar. My documentary will address those unresolved issues, and the Sheriff’s files are vital to presenting a full account of Salazar’s life and death. We’ve tried repeatedly to gain access to the files for more than two years, and we finally felt compelled to take this legal action”, says director Phillip Rodriguez.
MALDEF’S lawsuit is based on the California Public Records Act. In a press release MALDEF stated, “The petition was filed on behalf of noted documentary filmmaker Phillip Rodriguez. The writ of mandate seeks access to records referring to Salazar’s death and autopsy, and the ensuing investigation. The documents were initially requested by Rodriguez in 2010. Over the past two years the Sheriff’s Department has justified its refusal of full disclosure by claiming the documents were exempt from public records requests or otherwise subject to limitations on reviewing and copying. However, Baca allowed public inspection of the records – thus waiving exemption rights – then refused to provide copies of the unredacted documents he allowed to be inspected.” According to MALDEF, numerous written requests were sent to Sheriff Baca for information and materials involved in the Salazar incident.