Sunday, August 05, 2007

RICHARD HUERTA - FALLEN OFFICER - REMEMBERED


A YEAR AGO I PUBLISHED THE ARTICLE BELOW REGARDING MY DEAR FRIEND AND CAMPANION RICHARD HUERTA. I FELT IT APPROPRIATE TO REPUBLISH IT AS A REMEMBRANCE ON THE 37TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIS DEATH. I ALSO HAVE ADDED RECENT INFORMATION RECEIVED FROM ONE OF THE INVESTIGATORS ON THE SCENE.


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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 my 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.*

*From "La Nostra Costa" (OUR Coast), published by Authorhouse (2006).

RECENT INFORMATION JUST RECEIVED FROM DAVE BRICKELL, INVESTIGATOR ON THE SCENE:

Thanks Ivan for reminding us of Richard’s death. I remember the incident well. I was working nights in the Detective Bureau and had just returned home after my shift. I had just got in bed when I received a telephone call from Bart Collins informing me that Richard had been shot and to return to the Bureau. I met Larry Stuefloten later and we proceeded to Valley Medical Center. Stu rode in the ambulance with Emil Thompson and I followed behind. At the hospital we obtained a confession from Emile and stayed with him until he was released early in the morning. We booked him into the County jail later in the morning. I remember very clearly what Emile’s attitude was at that time. He was smiling from time to time and acted as if the whole thing was no big deal.

One of the things that really stands out in my mind is an incident at the County jail a few days after Emile had been arrested. Every time Emile would get a visitor the SO would let us know and we would send someone to the jail to listen in on the conversation and record it. On this occasion Emile’s brother, a jailer for Oakland PD, came to visit Emile. During the course of their conversation the brother asked Emile why he didn’t also shoot the passenger in Richard’s patrol car as he was a witness. Emile started sobbing and said, “ I didn’t have any more bullets left.”


Stu and I later retraced Emile’s steps before he shot Richard that night. He started the evening by getting into a fight with a girl friend or sorts and getting kicked out of her apartment. Apparently this girl did not care that much for Emile and didn’t want anything to do with him. Several male friends of hers who were present forced Emile to leave and made it clear to him he wasn’t welcome there. Emile left and drove to an Orange Winzet (sp) place on Santa Clara where he bought an orange drink. He quickly drank it and asked for a free refill. The girl who served him said that didn’t have free refills and he would have to pay for the refill. Emile argued with her briefly and then threw the drink cup, that now contained only ice, in her face. He then left and drove off. Shortly afterwards he spotted Richard driving in the college area and started following him.

The rest you pretty much know. Richard was a great guy.

Dave Brickell



FOR MORE INFORMATION ON "LA NOSTRA COSTA" (OUR COAST) VISIT THE AUTHOR'S WEBSITE AT: http://www.lanostracosta.com-a.googlepages.com/

9 comments:

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

After I had published "La Nostra Costa", I spoke with Retired Police Lieutenant Phil Norton: Phil does not recall the incident that I recite in the book. He does not remember being at the scene when the killer was arrested.
Phil,who was a sergeant at the time, was assigned to the Chief's Office, and was in an "unmarked" car that evening. He does remember being notified of Richard's death and responding to the area. ivn0

bill mallett said...

Ivan: Thanks for sending me the tribute to Richard. I remember that day and exactly what I was doing when I got the news of Richard's death. I've often thought how life can be so unfair. Richard lived such a short life and we have been given the gift of long life. I'm glad that you remind us all of the sacrifice that he gave to the San Jose community. Thanks, Bill Mallett

GB: Thanks Bill for your very appropriate and sincere comments regarding Richard. For those readers who are not SJPD Officers,
Bill Mallett and I worked together for many years on the San Jose Police Force. Bill was one of my fiercest competitors when it came to taking a promotional exam. Bill won out. He retired as an Assistant Chief of Police, while I could only make it to Captain. ivn0

ken Yules said...

As a green rookie officer, I remember Richard mostly in briefings. My most vivid memory of that terrible day was my thought of "What am I doing here?" I'm not trying to be trite or humorous. I was hired on July 6, 1970, and August 6, 1970, was my first shift as a solo officer; B-14 on the far west side. When the shooting occurred and the radio traffic was overwhelming, I started toward downtown. I'm not sure what channel I eventually went to, but I asked control where they wanted me. I was told to stay out in the West side as it was my area. I was glad for it (telling me to stay in my area) since at the time I had not attended the academy nor did I have an FTO (Field Training Officer) due to the one assigned me having left for National Guard summer camp.

I reflect often on those fine officers that we lost, especially those during my career as well as during my retirement. It's so sad that they were taken from us, and so often it seems that only we care.

Sincerely,
Ken Yules
SJPD 1444, Ret.

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

I received the below e-mail regarding Richard, from Tom Frazier, a former Deputy Chief on the SJPD and more recently former Police Commissioner of Baltimore PD. Thanks Tom


Ivan--
We'll keep him and his family in our prayers.
Hope all is well with you and yours.
Best;
Tom

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

Thanks to Dave (Brickell)we now have an on-the-scene account of what occurred just after the capture of Richard's killer. Much of what Dave has revealed, was unknown to me and probably to many other San Jose Police Officers. Thanks Dave, I really appreciate your e-mail very much. ivn

Roger Princevalle said...

Ivano,

Glad that Rich's remembrance was published in the Farsider. (SJPD Newsletter) Got me thinking about how the members of the department treated each other,,, most of it based on how well the job was performed and were you then when a "fill" was requested. Seems simple, at least from my memories. Whether an officer was white, black, brown, yellow or a zebra it did not seem to matter. I can remember Rich at a 415 at Capitol and Story when a male called him a "Chicano." In his best voice, Rich looked at the guy and said, "I am not a Chicano. My mother taught be better than that." After that comment, I respected him even more. He had guts and a great sense of humor!
"Ruggero"

Anonymous said...

Dont think for a moment the killer doesn't relive that moment with the regret of someone who flushed his whole life down the toilet for a moment of sick satisfaction. Like the old saying goes, "a moment of carelessness can reap a lifetime of sorrow."

And he's not alone. He alone has to bear the grief of his whole family.

srjeff/phoenix

IVAN said...

Thanks for your comment, srjeff/phoenix.

Aug 6, 2010, will mark 20 years since Richard was butally assassinated. His killer still lingers in jail. I wonder what thoughts this infamous assassin will have on this date? ivn

CORRECTOR said...

OOPS! My error. Of course this terrible incident occurred 40 years ago, not twenty. Sorry about that. Ivan