In 1994, I filed my first California Public Records Act Request to review the Sheriff’s Department files on Ruben Salazar. The department denied the request, saying the records were confidential law enforcement files. I made another CPRA request in 1995. It, too, was denied. Then in early 2010, as the 40th anniversary of Salazar’s slaying approached, I filed another request with Sheriff Lee Baca. He refused to release the files.
I produced several reports and a video after Baca’s denial, which sparked an outcry from members of the Salazar family, activists, journalists and elected officials — all of whom said it was time for the department to come clean on the case and release its records. Finally, in late February 2011, Baca agreed to allow a limited viewing of the once-secret records by journalists and academics.
So far, the Sheriff’s Department has granted me one four-hour session to examine the eight boxes filled with thousands of pages of homicide-investigation reports, photos and witness statements. Poring over the files was a powerful experience and a fascinating step back into a tragic chapter of Los Angeles history.
I’m currently awaiting another appointment to inspect the records. Once I examine all the records, I will be preparing a report. In the meantime, below are are two recent related reports I wrote that were published in The Times. The first article, which deals with a civilian watchdog agency report on the records, appeared on the front page of our Sunday edition. Baca ordered the report in August 2010 after I wrote about his initial denial to release the records. The second article deals was written after Baca told us he would unseal the records.