When Santos and David Rodriguez were pulled from their grandfather’s home in the early-morning hours of July 24, 1973, by two Dallas police officers, Hispanics made up less than 10 percent of Dallas’ 850,000 residents and were concentrated in a neglected area north of downtown called Little Mexico.Granted, you'd need $4 in addition to that apology to get a latte at Starbucks; it's not worth much on its own at this late date. Still, Rawlings was right to make the gesture. This was an extreme example of why custodial interrogations by police should be recorded at the station house. If the gun hadn't gone off, who thinks anyone would have ever believed the brothers' story about Officer Cain's coercive interrogation methods? Indeed, three years prior, Cain had already been cleared of shooting a fleeing 18-year old black boy because authorities and a grand jury didn't believe witnesses who said "the suspect was shot to death as he lay wounded and pleading for his life."
The two officers drove the brothers to a vacant lot behind a Fina gas station on Cedar Springs, where a vending machine had been robbed of $8. Officer Darrell L. Cain tried to force a confession from 12-year-old Santos by playing Russian roulette with the boy. The second time he placed the gun to Santos’ head and pulled the trigger, it fired.
The 12-year-old’s grisly death and the relatively lenient treatment of his murderer (Cain was released on a $5,000 bond), galvanized the Hispanic community. It was a bellwether moment that came to symbolize Dallas Latinos’ sense of being overlooked and disregarded — and the need for empowerment.
Although there began to be changes — Cynthia Villarreal became the first Latina to join the Dallas Police Department in 1975, for instance — the lack of an official apology from the city of Dallas became further evidence of the city’s perceived indifference to its Hispanic citizens.
Today, Hispanics make up more than 40 percent of Dallas. They are the largest ethnic group in the city. And yet, during a July memorial service marking the anniversary of the murder, rather than extending a true apology, the city offered a retread resolution vowing not to let another such incident happen again.
Rawlings was on vacation at the time; he says he had been unaware the city had never apologized until he read about it in The Dallas Morning News. “This should have been done within the first weeks of when I came into office,” he said.
As a postscript, Cain was convicted of "murder with malice" for killing David Rodriguez but the jury sentenced him only to five years, according to the Court of Criminal Appeals opinion sustaining his conviction.