From the People’s Archives – 11/28/97: The Tragic Case of Oliverio Martinez, Oxnard Fieldworker who was Blinded, Paralyzed, and Interrogated by Oxnard Police



From the people’s archives:

at top, left to right: Senior Officer Maria Peña, Commander Andrew Salinas, Sgt. Ben Chavez (ret.)

Exclusive: Democracy Now! Broadcasts a Recording of a Police Sergeant Interrogating a Man Moments After Police Shoot him 5 Times, Paralyzing and Blinding Him.


(OXNARD) In November 1997, Oliverio Martinez rode his bicycle into the middle of an ongoing narcotics investigation. He was ordered to dismount; Officer Salina patted him down, then there was a scuffle. Salinas yelled, “he’s got my gun,” (this fact is in dispute). Officer Pena fired several shots. Five bullets struck Martinez, one in the face, which rendered him blind, one in the spine, which paralyzed his legs. He was handcuffed in this state, and questioned by Officer Chavez, both during the ambulance ride and while undergoing emergency treatment. Martinez cried several times, “I’m dying,” to which Officer Chavez replied, “OK, yes you are dying, but tell me why you are fighting, were you fighting with the police?”
Martinez sued the City of Oxnard and Officer Chavez on the grounds that they violated his constitutional rights (Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and 14th Amendments) by stopping him without probable cause, using excessive force, tampering with evidence, inflicting cruel and unusual punishment, and subjecting him to coercive interrogation.
The Bush administration joined with the city of Oxnard. In briefs filed in December 2002, U.S. Solicitor Gen. Theodore B. Olson and Michael Chertoff, stated, “Police can hold people in custody and force them to talk, so long as their incriminating statements are not used to prosecute them.”

Lamenting Miranda’s fall:


Since September 11, thousands of Arab, Muslim, and South Asian immigrants in this country have been interrogated without the presence of attorneys, held in secret detention, beaten and mistreated in custody, and deported. But the heightened repression is not just aimed at Arab, Muslim, and South Asian immigrants. The war on civil liberties and people’s rights are part of an extreme agenda of those in power that is bringing ominous and sweeping changes that affect the people in the U.S.
The May 27 Supreme Court decision did not abolish Miranda rights altogether–but it was a big assault on what was supposed to be among the basic constitutional rights in this country. As Erwin Chemerinsky points out, “Constitutional rights have little meaning if they are not enforceable.”

Supreme Court: “You have the right to be interrogated when wounded”



LA Times: It’s ‘Just Wrong,’ Says the Plaintiff
Oliverio Martinez is blind and paralyzed, and lives in a cramped trailer. He attributes his problems to his shooting by Oxnard police.


LA Times: Justice Takes a Beating

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