Thursday, August 03, 2006

Fallen Officer-Richard Eugene Huerta

Sunday, August 6 is the thirty sixth anniversity of the killing of San Jose Police Officer Richard Eugene Huerta. In everyone's life there is at least one adverse incident that stands above all others. Tragically, for me, Richard's death was that incident. What follows below is and excerpt from my book "La Nostra Costa" (Our Coast) .

"August 6, 1970, is a date forever ingrained in the annals of the San Jose Police Department. On that date, my best friend and one-time roommate Officer Richard Eugene Huerta, was assassinated by a lone gunman. He was only thirty-six years old. The incident occurred during that turbulent period of our history when it was common for radicals advocating : "black power" to extol the vitues of killing a "pig". Apparently (although no one will know for certain) one black male, Emile Thompson, then in his early twenties, took that message literally. As Richard sat in his vehicle, writing a citation to a third party (not involved in the crime), the lone assassin crept up from behind the car, and suddnly shot the unsuspecting officer in back of the head. This brutal and cowardly act killed Richard almost instantly.

Still in the early morning hours, I was awakened from a sound sleep by a telephone call. On the other end of the line was Officer Jim Emmons, a friend, who also happened to be a former roommate of Richard's. Jim, who was on duty at the time of the shooting delivered the message that haunts me to this day. "Richard has been shot".

Still half asleep, I asked Jim if Richard was all right. Jim responded in an unemotional and very controlled manner, which is very typical of a professional police officer under stress. "No, I think he is dead. I thought you'd like to know."

In a state of shocked amazement, I quickly put on some civilian clothes, grabbed by off duty revolver, and drove myself (I was living in Scotts Valley at the time) to the San Jose Police Station. Once there and still in off-duty clothes, I hooked up with on-duty Sg. Phil Norton. Together we joined the search for the assassin. It wasn't long before Norton received a radio call informing him that the killer had been found hiding in a back yard in the 500 block of North Thirteen. Sgt. Norton quickly responded to the scene and both he and I were present when the assassin was dragged from his hiding place and placed in handcuffs.

I guess you might say that I, as well as Sgt. Norton and the officers who actually made the arrest, acted professionally in not shooting Thompson in the head. This thought certainly crossed my mind and, at the time, I actually had my finger on the trigger of my snub-nose "38". Not committing the act certainly didn't make me feel any better or more professional. (Probably the only one who wasn't restrained by "police professional behavior" was the police dog on the scene. Without asking permission, he promptly took a bite out of the killer.) The murderer is now in his fifties, serving out his life sentence. I doubt if he spends much of his time thinking about the consequences of his act. Richard's death left two young children without a father. Marie Huerta was left alone to raise Leanne and Richard Jr."

The above excerpt regarding Officer Richard Huerta's death, is copyrighted by Ivano Franco Comelli, all rights reserved. It appears in his book "La Nostra Coast"(Our Coast) published by Authorhouse (2006), , 1-888-280-7715.


Anonymous said...

Richard had a very positive impact on me. Richard was willing to put up with my well intended rookie mistakes and still could give positive direction without "cracking" a smile. Richard was aware of the feelings of co-workers.

Being around him in a variety of situations, Richard was seen to lead by example. Keeping calm when appropriate and equally quick in reacting when necessary. May Richard and the work standards he set be remembered today and tomorrow.

On a very personal note, he was missed at my Wedding, which occurred just sixteen days after his murder.

Keep the faith that we meet him and others in a Bruni's "on the other side."

Roger Princevalle

Bob Bell said...

I remember driving to work in the Fraud Unit that morning and hearing on the radio that an SJPD officer had been killed. Then at work I learned that it was Richard. We had never worked together much, but there were a few beers consumed after swings in earlier years, and at parties. Helluva nice guy.

I never did hear the details of the search, which apparently took a long time. Of course the guys weren't about to give up, but I don't know how they zeroed in on the house where Thompson was found. I guess he had his vehicle parked nearby, but don't know what kept him from fleeing the scene right after the murder. Weren't Greg Pinck and Joe Ross two of the ones at the arrest? Ivan's right - it would have taken a lot of restraint to keep from "instant justice."

May he continue to RIP.

Margie Thompson said...

I met Officer Huerta while living with my parents on No. 8th Street. He responded to our home to take a report & ended up spending over an hour with us and ate dinner. My family loved him as he spoke the entire time in Spanish. I remember him as a kind, sincere and gentle person. That was one of my first dealings with a police officer and one I will never forget. A week later he was shot two blocks from our home.

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

What Bob, Roger and Marge say about Richard is so very true. He touched many lives. In the book I go on to further explain how his death effected my family. My mother in particular took it very hard. Richard's death happened and we can not change that. (Unfortunately for those associated with the San Jose Police Department, Richard's death was only the beginning of several on-duty deaths.)

Let's hope, as Roger indicates in his comment,that we will all once again meet across, "Il Ultimo Ponte". IvnO

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

Phil: All good cops make it. I have it from a very good source BTW: The
last Chapter in the Book is entitled: "Il Ultimo Ponte" (The Last Bridge).
It describes how the "Old Rancher", very old and sickly, standing at the
foot of a bridge, invisions the hereafter. Across the bridge waiting for
him are all his family, friends, and fellow "ranchers". (Those who have
passed on before him.) One thing that astounds him is that they are all
young and strong. Once he (the 'Old Rancher") crosses the bridge he finds
that he is once again young and strong.

In my mind, I just substitute and "Old Cop" (perhaps me) standing there and
seeing Richard (probably playing the accordian) and all those police
officers that have gone before us. Everyone, "young and strong again; so
happy to be alive" Ivan

----- Original Message -----

> Ivan: Your right about the strike vote being taken at the armory. Those
> were hectic days to say the least. I do hope that they have a Bruni's in
> paradise, assuming of course I make it there.
> Phil