For almost 2 years the parents of James Earl Rivera Jr. have been asking why 2 Stockton Police officers and 1 county sheriff opened fire with semi-automatic weapons including an AR-15 assault rifle on their unarmed 16 year old son. To this day James’ family has not received a police report or even a coroner's report, let alone a simple apology for James’ untimely death.
Without an official report or investigation, James’ mother, Dionne Smith-Downs has had to piece together an understanding of what happened to her son through a series of eyewitness accounts, none of which indicate that the police had any justification for opening fire on James.
On the morning of July 22, 2010 James was seen driving a blue van near his neighborhood in Stockton while being tailed by an unmarked vehicle. James was followed until his van was cutoff and then rammed by multiple police cars forcing James to lose control and crash through two metal mailboxes and then through the walls of two adjacent single car garages. The van remained lodged in the side of the garage until it was removed by a tow truck with police supervision later that night.
With James’ van lodged into the side of a garage and James presumably injured from the impact, 2 Stockton Police officers, Gregory Dunn and Eric Azarvand, and John Nesbitt of the San Joaquin Sheriff’s Department surrounded James’ van and opened fire with 48 rounds, 19 of which pierced James’ body. James was already dead and his body mutilated by the time the officers removed him from the van.
James was unarmed and posed no threat to himself, his community, or the officers who took his life.
Without any explanation from the Stockton Police or the San Joaquin Sheriff’s Department for the brutal attack on this innocent young African American boy one can only assume that the act was a hate crime that has since been ignored by the local justice system through a series of cover ups.
And so for the last 22 months Dionne Smith-Downs along with James’ entire family have been left to grieve without any explanation for James’ death. In the words of Smith-Downs,
It hurts because as a parent when your son was shot like that, and there is still no answers. There is still no closure. And then I go to the police station and City Hall, and they tell me "talk to this guy" and then "talk to that guy" … I miss my son. He cooked breakfast. He'd help get [his brothers and sisters] ready for school. He'd meet them after school on his bike and bring them home… If I'm hurting, I know they're hurting worse than me.
James is remembered fondly by his family as a kind hearted, helpful, happy, and outgoing boy who loved his brothers and sisters. He was very skilled with mechanics and technology. At home he was always happy to fix any malfunction whether it was a motor-scooter, a computer, or a loose screw on a table. He loved people and quickly earned the friendship of anyone he met. His death was a tragic and unnecessary loss to his family and community.
We call upon U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to start an investigation into the unjust and unwarranted shooting of James Earl Rivera Jr. by the Stockton Police and San Joaquin Sheriff’s Department and to provide the family of James Earl Rivera Jr. with a police report, coroner’s report and the Police Dashcam footage from the incident.