By William West

As the family of Alan Blueford continues to struggle for justice after he was killed by police on May 6, new information is coming to light about Oakland, Calif., police officer Miguel Masso, who pulled the trigger that ended Blueford’s life.

While pursuing Blueford, Masso passed a Cinco de Mayo party at a house where children were playing in the yard. It was in this yard that Masso pulled out his gun and fired four shots into the crowd, hitting Alan three times and killing him. Two of the three shots were fired into Alan’s back as he lay bleeding on the ground. The last shot Masso fired ended up in his own leg.

The East Bay Express newspaper reports that Masso has a well-documented history of violent behavior going back to his days as a New York cop. In the early morning hours of March 15, 2007, Masso and three other officers entered a Bronx, N.Y., holding cell where prisoner Rafael Santiago was sleeping. They told Santiago that he was to be transferred to Bronx Central Booking.

According to documents, Santiago refused to walk out of the holding cell with the officers. Masso and the three other cops responded by throwing Santiago to the floor, kicking him in the head and body, and then sadistically tasering and macing him as he lay on the ground. Santiago was then relocked into the holding cell where he begged for medical assistance for the six severe burns that covered different parts of his body. Masso refused to help the injured prisoner.

After Santiago filed a complaint with internal affairs, Masso resigned from the New York City Police Department rather than give an interview about the incident. However, he easily found a new job with the Morgan Hill Police Department of Santa Clara County, Calif. He transferred to the Oakland Police Department in 2008.

OPD Chief of Staff Sgt. Chris Bolton said that all transferred officers “receive a full background investigation, including a review of their personnel file” from past employers. Thus, there is no reason to doubt Bolton when he claims that Masso’s record was well known when he was hired by the OPD. Hiring Masso did not represent an oversight on the part of OPD; rather it reflects its racist history.

History of Oakland Police Department

During World War II, the shipbuilding industry created a job boom in the East Bay. Tens of thousands of poor farmworkers—both Black and white—left the Deep South for Oakland in the hope of landing jobs. The southern whites brought with them the expectations of preferential treatment that they received in the Jim Crow states and expected a subservient attitude from their African American coworkers. But the southern Blacks, no longer under the yoke of Jim Crow segregation, began to fight back and demand equal treatment in the Oakland community.

In the 1950s, the Oakland Police Department began openly recruiting police officers from the Deep South to impose unofficial Jim Crow injustice in the city of Oakland. The brutality of these southern cops gave impetus to the formation of the Black Panther Party in Oakland in 1966.

In the early 2000s, Oakland residents filed a class-action lawsuit against the OPD for allowing a group of officers calling themselves the Rough Riders to routinely and openly use excessive force, falsify reports, and plant incriminating evidence. In 2008, 16 Asian women won $2 million from the city when it was demonstrated that OPD officers had singled them out for sexual harassment. Recently, it has been reported that photos of an African American judge and an Asian city official hanging in OPD headquarters were defaced with blatantly racist language. With such a history, it makes sense that the OPD would actually seek out an officer with Masso’s history.

Rally for justice

At a rally on July 31, civil rights attorney Walter Riley noted how several city and county officials had sought to block the investigation into Blueford’s death. Masso’s partner had told the county coroner that the bullet in Masso’s leg had been fired by Blueford. The coroner’s report included this lie without any further investigation. Both Masso’s partner and the coroner, Riley noted, should be fired, along with the firing and prosecution of Masso. However, no Oakland city official has even called for an investigation into Blueford’s death.

Adam and Jerilyn Blueford, Alan Blueford’s parents, were joined at the rally by Rachel Guido, whose 15-year-old son Derrick Gaines was gunned down by a South San Francisco cop who stopped Gaines without probable cause only weeks after Blueford’s death. Together they marched to Oakland City Hall with over two hundred supporters, who chanted “Justice for Alan Blueford! Justice for Derrick Gaines!” and “Jail Killer Cops!” Together, the Blueford and Guido families tied a large “pink slip” to the City Council on the door to City Hall.

At the rally, civil rights attorney Dan Siegel pointed out that while the mass firings of officials is called for, such firings by themselves would not solve the crisis of police murder. The capitalist system, he explained, “denies basic services to human beings, but in an uneven manner.” Siegel continued: “Fifty percent of Black and Latino Oaklanders are unemployed, and the system provides no safety net. The job of the police is to terrorize oppressed communities so they will be too frightened to rebel. Until there are fundamental changes to the system, the police will still be doing their jobs. It’s not enough to get people fired. The banks need to go. The system that creates suffering has got to go.”

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