Justice for Michael Nida

Dear Editor,I feel the need to write because of some of the letters that have been submitted regarding my husband's late friend, Michael Nida, and his recent death at the hands of the Downey Police Department. I am appalled at how he has been referred to as a criminal, as well as how his family upbringing has been brought under attack. Scott Ramey, who wrote "Lack of Common Sense" on 12/22/11 (in response to "Police Shootings" by Kevin Solis on 12/11/11) says, "In the last couple of months we had two criminals killed by the police," one of them being Michael Nida. If Ramey suggests that being pursued by a police officer makes someone a criminal, then that reasoning would also make me a criminal, as well as my husband, friends, family members, and all other victims of racial profiling. The treatment we have received at the hands of law enforcement is what one would only expect to witness or experience before the Civil Rights movement reminded our nation that it is illegal to discriminate against others because of race or ethnicity. It has been discouraging as a law abiding citizen to know that in a country where even criminals have rights, that I can be verbally, physically and sexually abused by sworn officers of the law. Maybe Scott Ramey has had the luxury of living a life free of harassment from the police. I envy that. As a 30-year old wife, mother, and homeowner, I truly hope that my three children never have to go through what my husband and I have experienced in our lifetime. I've been called profane and derogatory names by police officers, and once was even told that the CA EXEMPT on their license plates means they can do whatever they want. I've been teaching for seven years, and it breaks my heart to hear how my students have had similar horrific experiences. How can anyone respect or trust a system that continues to abuse the innocent? In another letter, "Praise for Police" from 12/8/11, Byron Dillon also responds to Kevin Solis by stating that as a war veteran, he remembers how "Soldiers causing trouble were ordered to comply and move on. Resistance brought a few painful body blows from the night stick. Running could bring a few rounds from a 45 automatic. The lifelong lesson learned: keep your mouth shut, quickly obey an order, and never, ever run unless you want a few slugs in your backside." It is amazing that someone could compare our community streets to that of a war zone! It is scary enough to know that some officers abuse their authority, but to say that it is acceptable for an officer to shoot or kill someone for running is even more harrowing. Justification for shooting is if someone is yielding a weapon and poses a threat to another person's life. Certainly, running while unarmed does not pose a threat to anyone! Michael ran because he knew their intent was to kill him. What other use is there for a machine gun? Dillon also states that "law officers have a difficult job." I would agree, which is why it is pertinent that our City Council ensures that the Police Department is operating with integrity at all times and is also adequately trained to do the job that they are required to do. The family, friends, and supporters of Michael Nida have made this evident at the past four City Council meetings, and we will continue to do so until we see change. In his letter, Kevin Solis stated, "Everyone knows the reputation of the Downey Police; the citizens know it, the police know it, people hundreds of miles away know it." Unfortunately, I know exactly what Solis means. Ramey and Dillon seem to believe that the idea that there could be institutionalized racism in our police departments and any degree of misconduct is a farce. How blessed are they to have had this American privilege that the rest of us can only dream of. Michael Nida comes from a family of law enforcement officers and military veterans. We are not against police officers. We are against the disgusting pattern of unlawful police activity. In 2002, video footage captured Gonzalo Martinez being killed by the Downey PD using the same MP5 submachine gun that ended Michael Nida's life. Last year, they also killed Steven Bours, a decorated Iraq War veteran, and ten days before Michael's death, they killed a homeless man, Manuel Vargas. These are just a few examples. Some people blame Michael because he ran, but I would say his only fault that night was in not listening to his family members. His father and older brothers had always told him to steer clear of Downey because of the aggressive PD, and despite having experienced it firsthand time and time again, he didn't listen. Perhaps he was na?Øve to believe that he had the right to take his wife out that night in any city he pleased to celebrate what would've been his 32nd birthday. We need good officers to step up and speak out against their evil counterparts. We need well-trained officers out there to act with integrity when they protect and serve our communities. We need to fight against rogue officers who wrongfully use racial profiling to "identify" alleged criminals, and then fail to follow protocol when it comes to apprehending them. No non-lethal methods were used in apprehending Michael Nida. There were no tasers, bean bags, or rubber bullets used in the supposed pursuit of what they thought was an armed bank robber. What well-trained, effective police officer would use a machine gun to stop an unarmed person running from them? And are we really supposed to believe this bank robber story, when the police call put out on police scanners indicated that the bank robbers were African American males, dressed in blue shorts and black hoodies? Michael Nida, who was half white and half Puerto-Rican, was wearing a polo shirt and pants, and clearly, did not fit this description. Why was he a target? The only crime committed that night was the murder of a devoted husband, dedicated father, hard-working union carpenter, and dedicated community volunteer, whose Latino appearance made him "guilty" enough to warrant his death. Anyone who knows Michael Nida and his family knows that their generosity extends beyond the traditions of Christmas. I have always admired how much they give to those in need all year round. As we celebrate the New Year, let me remind you that Mrs. Nida and her four children were forced to spend Christmas without their husband and father, not because he was a criminal, but because he was the victim of a crime committed by the Downey PD. I sincerely hope that the residents of Downey recognize that there is a problem in their Police Department, and that all it takes is one bad officer to ruin the reputation of the entire force. The people have a right to demand answers and change! I hope that 2012 brings everyone good health, happiness, and Justice for Michael Nida. -- Lima Harris, Downey

********** Published: January 5, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 38