Two weeks after 46-year-old Brian Tacadena was shot and killed by a Santa Barbara police officer, friends, family, and dozens of community members gathered at the Courthouse Sunken Gardens to remember Tacadena and speak out against police brutality on Sunday evening.
“We need understanding,” said Frank Tacadena to the crowd, still visibly saddened by his cousin’s sudden death. “My cousin got murdered walking down the street. We have no answers. The police have given us no details.” He added, “If somebody has a knife that doesn’t mean you have to kill him. That doesn’t mean you have to shoot four or five times. We can’t even really speculate because we have no details. It’s been two weeks and we don’t know anything.”
Sgt. Riley Harwood said no further details can be released due to the ongoing investigation. As is the case with all police-involved shootings, he added, the District Attorney’s office will review the investigation once it’s completed, and that process could take several months.
The vigil/rally was organized by community activist Martin Leyva, who called for the establishment of a Police Oversight Committee staffed by citizens with full subpoena powers to generate dialogue between the police department, city officials, and the community about police violence. Leyva also mentioned two recent officer involved shootings — one in Port Hueneme and one in Ventura — as further grounds for the need for greater transparency in police policy.
The pro-youth Latino coalition, PODER (People Organizing for the Defense and Equal Rights), also called for increased accountability for SBPD, referring to the Tacadena shooting as an “unfortunate part of a growing trend.” Said one representative, “As a community, we declare our dissatisfaction with the transparency in the internal audit process involved with the police department.”
After the speeches, Tacadena’s aunt Kathryn said her nephew had a “troubled life,” but was “good-hearted” and had a “beautiful smile.” His cousin Richie Lovato added Tacadena was a “nice guy.” They explained he was originally from Santa Barbara but had spent the last several years in the San Jose area. He had traveled to the area on the day of his death to visit his 17-year-old daughter and other family members.
While holding tea candles, the gathering of about 50 people — including members of the Ventura-based chapter of the Brown Berets — peacefully marched down Figueroa Street holding signs criticizing police brutality. The group stopped in front of the police department and chanted dissatisfaction with the officers before returning to the courthouse lawn for a moment of silence.