This Day in History

July 24, 1973: Twelve-Year-Old Santos Rodriguez Killed By Police

Time Periods: People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974
Themes: Criminal Justice & Incarceration, Latinx, Racism & Racial Identity
Rodriguez Brothers | Zinn Education Project

David Rodriguez, 13, (left) and his brother Santos, 12, a month before Santos was killed.

On July 24, 1973, 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez and his 13-year-old brother David were pulled from their home in Dallas, Texas, handcuffed, and put inside a police car.

Officers accused them of robbing $8 from a vending machine at a nearby gas station. They denied it.

One of the officers played a game of Russian roulette to force the boys to confess to the crime.

The second time he pulled the trigger, the gun fired and killed Santos.

The murder galvanized the Mexican American community to demand justice, begining with a July 28 “March of Justice for Santos Rodriguez.”

The March of Justice, July 28, 1973. By Andy Hanson SMU. Source: Flashback Dallas.

The officer was convicted of negligent homicide and only served two-and-a half-years of his five-year sentence.

The words of Martin Luther King Jr. at the funeral for Jimmie Lee Jackson in 1965 are fitting with the respect to this murder and many murders of African Americns, Latinos, and Native Americans by police:

A State trooper pointed the gun, but he did not act alone. . . . He was murdered by the irresponsibility of every politician, from governors on down, who has fed his constituents the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism. He was murdered by the timidity of a federal government that can spend millions of dollars a day to keep troops in South Vietnam and cannot protect the rights of its own citizens seeking the right to vote. He was murdered by the indifference of every white minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of his stained-glass windows.

Santos Rodriguez | Zinn Education Project

Santos Rodriguez

Read More

How the Death of a 12-Year-Old Changed the City of Dallas” a story on NPR’s Codeswitch.

40 years after Santos Rodriguez’s murder, scars remain for family, neighbors and Dallas” in the Dallas News.

Civil Rights in Black and Brown: Oral History Project from the TCU Library.

Santos Rodriguez: The March of Justice — 1973 by Paula Bosse on Flashback Dallas.