Lord God, during this Lenten season, teach us to come before you in humility, lamenting the signs that your kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. Help us to acknowledge our finitude and failings, and guide us into a journey of remembering rightly, repenting honestly, and responding faithfully. We long for the coming of your mosaic kingdom in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and invite your Holy Spirit to lead us now.
THIS DAY IN HISTORY: MARCH 21, 2014
The Killing of Alex Nieto
On Friday evening, March 21, 2014, Alejandro “Alex” Nieto, 28 years old, was killed when he was struck by 14 to 15 bullets (of a total of 59 shots) fired by four San Francisco Police Department officers, on Bernal Hill Park, without justification. The officers who killed Alex Nieto are: Sgt. Jason Sawyer (then lieutenant), Officer Roger Morse, Officer Richard Schiff, and Officer Nathan Chew.
Nieto, a City College student, was 28 years old when he was killed, in the neighborhood where he had spent his whole life. There are a few things about his death that everyone agrees on: he was in a hilltop park eating a burrito and tortilla chips and wearing the Taser he carried for his job as a bouncer at a nightclub when someone called 911 on him a little after 7pm. When police officers arrived a few minutes later, they claim Nieto defiantly pointed the Taser at them, and that they mistook it for a gun, and shot him in self defense. However, the stories of the four officers contradict each other, and some of the evidence.
Many of Nieto’s friends and family believe that Alex died because of gentrification. An article written in The Guardian says it this way:
“Nieto died because a series of white men saw him as a menacing intruder in the place he had spent his whole life. They thought he was possibly a gang member because he was wearing a red jacket. Many Latino boys and men in San Francisco avoid wearing red and blue because they are the colors of two gangs, the Norteños and Sureños – but the colors of San Francisco’s football team, the 49ers, are red and gold. Wearing a 49ers jacket in San Francisco is as ordinary as wearing a Saints jersey in New Orleans. That evening, Nieto, who had thick black eyebrows and a closely cropped goatee, was wearing a new-looking 49ers jacket, a black 49ers cap, a white T-shirt, black trousers, and carried the Taser in a holster on his belt, under his jacket. (Tasers shoot out wires that deliver an electrical shock, briefly paralysing their target; they are shaped roughly like a gun, but more bulbous; Nieto’s had bright yellow markings over much of its surface and a 15-foot range.)
Nieto had first been licensed by the state as a security guard in 2007 and had worked in that field since. He had never been arrested and had no police record.”
Alex’s case did not get the same national publicity as some other cases of unarmed civilians who were shot and killed by police did. Many in the Latinx community felt that this marginalized the reality of how impacted their community was by police brutality. In an article exploring this, Aaron Fountain, a historian of youth activism at Indiana University said: “In American history, racial conflict has largely played out in black and white. But the history is much more complicated, [leaving] out Native Americans, as well as Asians and Hispanics.” Fountain went on to say, “Americans don’t see any kind of historical context when Latinos are victims of state violence, despite the fact that there is historical context there.”
A 2016 PBS Newshour article entitled “Why aren’t more people talking about Latinos killed by police?” found that “among minorities, the rate of police killings for Latinos is second to those of African-Americans” and that “As of today [6-14-16], an estimated 94 Latinos have been killed by police in 2016 alone, making up 16 percent of the 585 police-involved killings this year.”
SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: ESTHER 3:8-10, 4:1-3
“8 Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. 9 If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king’s administrators for the royal treasury.”
10 So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 11 “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman, “and do with the people as you please.”…
4 When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes,put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. 2 But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. 3 In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.”
RESPONSE OF LAMENT AND CONFESSION: Please spend some time in personal response, crying out to God with prayers, poems, songs, or art that expresses your lament and confession. If you feel led, please share these responses with others, using #lentenlament #day21
You may close with the following:
Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.
CLOSING PRAYER: Prayer for the Death of Someone Killed in the Neighborhood
“Lamb of God,
You take away the sins of the world.
Have mercy on us.
Grant us peace.
For the unbearable toil of our sinful world,
We plead for remission.
For the terror of absence from our beloved,
We plead for your comfort.
For the scandalous presence of death in your creation,
We plead for the resurrection.
Lamb of God,
You take away the sins of the world
Have mercy on us.
Grant us peace.
Come, Holy Spirit, and heal all that is broken in our lives, in our streets, and in our world. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
-From: Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, 555