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On Friday, ABC News Studios Hulu released the documentary series KILLING COUNTY, executive produced by Colin Kaepernick.
The docuseries is produced by ABC News Studios in association with Kaepernick Media and narrated by André Holland (MOONLIGHT).
According to Bakersfield, five families revisit the deaths of their loved ones and recount what happened. Victims include Jorge Ramirez Jr., an informant who died after he was shot by the Bakersfield Police Department; David Silva, who was subjected to beating, K-9 bites and alleged hogtying, by Kern County Sheriff’s deputies.
KILLING COUNTY also looks at the case of James De La Rosa, an unarmed man gunned down by police officers and whose corpse was reportedly tickled by a cop; Jason Alderman, shot by police; and Francisco Serna, a 73-year-old man shot by police six to seven times in his driveway while clutching a crucifix.
On Sept. 16, 2013, 34-year-old Jorge Ramirez Jr. was gunned down by police during a sting operation.
Ramirez was a former Junior Olympic boxing champion, a brother and father of five, who over the years, had developed a drug problem and served some time in prison, however, that wasn’t the story authorities would offer up.
In a case brimming with alleged police cover-ups and scandalous admissions, The Black Wall Street Times spoke with ABC News Senior Series producer, Monica DelaRosa, about embarking on a journey to discover the truth inside a fortress of fog.
“They [Kaepernick’s team] told us ‘go look into this town outside L.A. called Bakersfield.'” DelaRosa continued, “there were reports several years ago about Bakersfield being the place where its citizens are the most likely to die at the hands of police. So that alone was a shocking thing and really peaked our interest at ABC News.”
Aware of the public relations disaster that comes along with being branded as the deadliest police department in America, six years ago Bakersfield PD wholly defended their methodology to the local media.
Though KILLING COUNTY illuminates what was once only known to a clandestine few in Bakersfield, California, DelaRosa recognizes the brazen police brutality across the US is indicative of a larger issue.
“It’s sad. You’d hope that there would be some improvement. For the families that are featured in the series, this happened in 2013 — you’d think there would have been some improvement. It’s just very sad that we see the trend of fatal police shootings in the US seem to not be going down, and actually seems to be increasing.”
Mapping Police Violence accounts that 1,123 people were killed by police in 2022, DelaRosa says, “It is such an important conversation. This series is more important than ever, we have to continue having the conversations — something is going on in our police departments and we have to keep talking about it.”
Families seek accountability from Bakersfield PD
When asked what accountability looks like for a family who now belongs to a larger community also affected by police brutality, DelaRosa says removing officers from the areas they’ve terrorized would be a start.
“What happens when an officer is involved in a shooting? What happens when they do it multiple times?” DelaRosa asks. “What viewers will find in the series is some of the family members are often dealing with the same cast of characters.”
“The families are asking, ‘Are we keeping track of this? Are they getting promoted?’ Which in some cases they are,” confirms DelaRosa. “‘Do they back go on the street immediately after one of these killings?’ Sometimes they do.”
Whether Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee, or Jorge Ramirez Jr. in Bakersfield, California, many prescribed police reports have been later found to besmirch victims whilst exemplifying officer performance.
In doing so, this further damages the credibility of all PD’s with each newly uncovered case of corruption. “What do we do with this initial police report that comes out, that initial press release — if the Ramirez’s had taken that at face value, they would have never known what happened to their loved one,” says DelaRosa.
“The police said it was just a traffic stop, as we saw in Memphis it was just a traffic stop, but both were very far from routine traffic stops. That’s why the family kept fighting for answers, viewers will see that in the series — let’s start asking more questions.”
Though the Ramirez family lost Jorge Jr. in 2013, DelaRosa says, “they live this every day. The pain is very visceral. For them to fight back against organizations — these are not powerful families, they don’t wield influence the way other families do in that county.”
The city reportedly later reached a settlement with Ramirez’s family for $400,000, but no official has yet been punished for Jorge Jr.’s death.
KILLING COUNTY reveals cops documented “what was necessary”
A disgraced ex-officer and central figure in the docuseries, Damacio Diaz, speaks candidly about the abusive autonomy within the Bakersfield Police Department.
Diaz told NBC 17 in Bakersfield, “You didn’t have to disclose every step that you took. You didn’t have to disclose or document, every single step you took. You documented what was necessary to bring that case to trial or prosecution. But how you got there was your business.”
Diaz continued, “Once they identify that you are the kind of person who will take certain steps that have been to develop you. You know, doing things that other cops wouldn’t do: Changing your story when asked, to covering for other people.”
“I honestly believed that if the time ever came that someone would investigate us,” Diaz said, “it would be taken care of by those in power.”
Chris Silva, sibling of David Silva, deceased at 33, told The Black Wall Street Times he wants people to know David “was a great brother.”
Chris adds, “He was a human looking for help at a hospital, he was escorted across the street because he was found sleeping on the premises of the hospital. He knew when to ask for help.”
“He was a great father. He was also just a regular dude that was the funniest person you’d ever meet. Unfortunately, we’re working with a county that likes to villainize victims and they’re very crafty with it.”
Officer accountability brings optimism to victim families
“I’m happy to see now cases that lead to true officer accountability. When we first started almost ten years ago, that was non-existent. There’s a lot more hope now compared to how it was only a few years ago,” says Silva.
“Officers should be held accountable just like you and I if we killed somebody,” Silva elaborated.
Speaking on the tireless work of combating systemic police misconduct not only for his own family, but others, Silva says, “Families of victims of police brutality are often forced to become the activists, organizers, and leaders along with grieving. It’s not even our fight anymore. Frankly, our case is over – shut and closed. Now our job is to represent for all families affected.”
“The FBI should definitely have full investigations into these killings and acts of brutality. In my experience, they go off reports conducted by the Sheriffs department, in my brother’s case, there was a two-week investigation and the DOJ and FBI went off that,” says DelaRosa.
“The federal government should play a deeper role in holding the officers accountable and informing the world what truly happened in these kinds of cases.”
All three episodes are now streamable on Hulu.