THE ASSASSINATION OF FALLEN SAN JOSE POLICE OFFICER RICHARD HUERTA - A RECOLLECTION (Excerpts from my book La Nostra Costa (Our Coast), published in 2006, by Authorhouse)*
August 6, 1970, is a date forever ingrained in the annals of the San Jose Police Department. On that date my friend and one time roommate, Officer Richard Huerta was assassinated by a lone gunman. He was only 36 years old. The incident occurred during that turbulent period of our history when it was common for radicals advocating "black power" to extol the virtues of killing a "pig". Apparently (though 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 police vehicle, writing a citation to a third party (not involved in the crime), the lone assassin crept up from behind the car, and suddenly 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 awaken 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 though 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 Sgt. 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 on 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.
*Copyrighted 2006 by Ivano Franco Comelli. All Rights Reserved.