Shades of Trayvon Martin, Cook County jury acquits in shooting death of young Latino
Submitted by Illinoisnoki1 on Sat, 04/14/2012 - 16:25
By Bill Bianchi, PDA
America’s murderous gun culture, racist attitudes and double standard justice system so apparent in Florida’s Trayvon Martin incident, combined again, this time not in the deep South, but in Cook County Illinois. There a jury acquitted homeowner Donald Rattanavong of manslaughter charges in the shooting death of an 18 year old, Gulliermo Pineda.
The facts are plain. Pineda and other teenage boys, who confessed to robbing unlocked cars in the neighborhood that night, were spotted by Rattanavong near his cars parked in his driveway at his home in Elgin, Illinois.
Reports in the Chicago Tribune and the Daily Herald say Rattanavong testified he believed the teens were trying to break into his cars, but he never pointed his weapon at anyone, rather he shot into the air to scare away Pineda and his friends. However, there was no evidence of burglary to the cars, and one of the shots hit Pineda in the temple casting doubt on Rattanavong’s statement about only wanting to scare the teens.
The shooter was charged by Cook County prosecutors with involuntary manslaughter, an appropriate charge, but a Cook County jury acquitted and found Rattanavong guilty of a lesser charge of “reckless discharge of a firearm”. That charge carries a maximum penalty of 3 years in jail, but often results in probation with no jail time. The Judge ordered Rattavong, who had been free on bail, held in jail until sentencing, which will take place May 11. After that he could go free.
Pineda’s mother, Isabel said she believed her son, was targeted because he was Latino. “It’s incredible how (Rattanavong) took matters into his own hands…I guess then all the world should just arm themselves.”
This awful miscarriage begs many questions about the state of American justice and the mentality of American men, regardless of their ethnic or racial background.Rattanavong is a Loatian immigrant.
Neither newspaper account mentions anything about Rattanavong calling the police. Did he? Or did he just grab his gun and decide to handle the situation himself, John Wayne style? Are we now at a point where anyone witnessing a crime or suspecting a crime might be committed or even not liking someone’s looks, is encouraged to grab a gun and blast away, with no fear of being changed with a crime.
A charge of “reckless discharge of a weapon” effectively removes the murder victim from the case and focuses on a technicality, discharging a weapon. Rattanavong could have been charged with that even if no one had been hurt or if he just shot randomly. The jury’s message is clear; the young Latino man’s life is irrelevant. Would they have come to the same conclusion if the victim had been white?
In Florida we saw that local and state police had no intention of even arresting a man for shooting an unarmed black youth. Only tremendous national pressure and threats from the Justice Department forced Florida officials to bring charges against Zimmerman.
Here in Cook County, the authorities did the right thing, but the jury of peers concluded that intentionally killing a young Latino is not a serious crime. (I say intentionally because if Rattanavong wanted to shoot in the air, he would have. You don’t need to be a good shot to do that). It looks like the culture of shot-first, ask questions later is not entrenched in Illinois as well as Florida.
Would the police in Florida or the jury in Cook County have acted differently if the victim were a white youth doing similar suspicious actions as Pineda and Martin? I think we know the answer.