Paul David Rea, 18, had his whole life ahead of him. Paul liked to be playful with his family, make funny videos with his friends, and was an adventurer. Paul was full of life and didn't take a day for granted. If you ask his grandmother, Julie Martinez, how she would describe Paul, she will say he was a family man, and was always willing to help his friends and people he loved the most.
Tragically, his life was cut short on June 27, 2019, when Hector Saavedra, a Los Angeles Sheriff's deputy from the East L.A. station, shot Paul multiple times. Paul's life was stolen instantly. Paul was simply a passenger in a car when he and his friend were stopped during a traffic stop.
Julie says that Paul was a victim of violence by the L.A. Sheriff's Department (LASD). “My grandson, Paul, was shot and murdered by a member of a gang called Banditos. This gang operates inside the LASD, specifically at the East L.A. station. My grandson was only eighteen-years-old. They stopped him and killed him on the street where he grew up,” says Julie.
Julie's family has lived in East L.A. for generations, and according to her, the children and young adults in her family and community are frequently harassed by LASD. The sheriff's deputies have a reputation for being violent. This is what motivates Julie to take action and fight for justice. Julie has always been a human rights activist — especially for immigrants — but when it was her turn to seek justice for her grandson, she didn't know it would be this difficult.
Julie's family looked for answers with the L.A. County Board of Supervisors (BOS). Her family would ask how something like this can happen and how sheriff deputies can end a life without provocation. They didn't find answers or the attention from legislators. Julie knew that in order to find answers, she had to join forces with organizations like the ACLU of Southern California, Check The Sheriff, Black Lives Matter of Los Angeles, National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles, and Centro CSO of East Los Angeles. It was also important to tell the story of Paul on social media, so the family started an Instagram account called @Justice4PaulRea. By being part of these organizations, Julie learned that LASD terrorizes communities, not just in East L.A., but all over L.A. County, especially in communities of color.
“This is unjust. Our family wants to know why the police have the right to take away the life of an innocent person like Paul. Paul was shot multiple times and didn't receive timely medical attention,” states Julie.
Julie and her family now attend all L.A. County Civilian Oversight Commission meetings and protests in front of the LASD's office. Like Paul's family, there are many other families demanding justice for their loved ones who also lost their lives at the hands of LASD. Some of them are David Ordaz Jr. (1986-2021), Andres Guardado (2001-2020), Dijon Kizzee (1991-2020), Ryan Twyman (1995-2019), and Anthony Vargas (1997-2018).
Speaking against LASD has put Julie's family in a vulnerable situation. Paul's family reports seeing LASD vehicles driving slowly in front of their house, following them around the community, and even damaging memorial sites for Paul. In other cases, sheriff deputies arrested and detained Paul's sister, Jaylene, without explanation and harassed Paul's little sister, Janae, as she was coming out of middle school.
Julie and the Check the Sheriff coalition, which the ACLU of Southern California is a member of, are working to pass a charter amendment in L.A. County to finally create accountability over the Los Angeles sheriff. Villanueva is not the first sheriff to abuse their power; and will not be the last one — unless we can establish civilian oversight over the sheriff's paramilitary personnel. This amendment will allow the BOS to remove the sheriff for serious breaches of public trust, strengthen BOS authority to guide policymaking within LASD, and create an independent civilian oversight.
Julie says, “Since I participated with organizations like Check the Sheriff, I've been witness to positive change. If you or your family have been impacted by LASD violence, my message to you is that you are not alone.”