CALIFORNIA — Within this decade, some Filipino Americans have found themselves the targets of law enforcement in cases that involved excessive use of force, mental illness, even simple misunderstandings.
Back in January 2012, 36-year-old Bernie “Chino” Villegas was playing with a BB gun outside his Anaheim, California apartment when he was gunned down by SWAT officers.
Officers were responding to reports of a suspected drug dealer armed with a shotgun.
Villegas was pronounced dead at the scene.
His family filed a wrongful death suit against the police department, but the case dragged on for 7 years, and an Orange County jury eventually found the police not negligent.
In November 2012, a traffic stop ended tragically when officers gunned down U.S. Marine AJ Devillena in Palm Springs, California.
When Devillena, who was believed to be driving drunk at that time allegedly refused to stop his car, officers jumped inside the car, and opened fire.
The family reached a $2.6 million settlement with the palm springs police department in September 2015.
Meanwhile, in Loudon County, Virginia, Costco employee Mylene Deleon Scott was shot multiple times by sheriff deputies after she allegedly started acting strangely, prompting coworkers to call the police back in may 2013.
Authorities said Deleon-Scott failed to respond to commands to drop a pizza knife and possibly a pair of scissors, and instead charged at them.
Her family members slammed the police for what they call excessive use of force.
In 2018, a Long Beach, California family settled for $2 million with the police department over the shooting death of Mharloun Saycon.
Three years earlier, Saycon, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, was reportedly acting erratically at a local casino when police tased, and shot him dead.
“When the police officers came in they did not even attempt to negotiate or try to find out what’s going on. As I’ve said, they came in with their guns drawn. Employed a level of force with the evidence shows which is clearly excessive,” said Attorney Joe Sayas.
While some of these examples slowly found some monetary justice, all these incidents have left families in tears and anger.
Community advocates believe these tragic cases could have been avoided had the police acted with more prudence.
With police brutality at the center of nationwide protests with the recent death of unarmed black man, George Floyd, they continue to call for justice and systemic changes within an agency that’s sworn to protect the community.