Theresa Smith’s Story

Theresa Smith’s heartache began long before the five Anaheim Police officers shot 15 bullets into her son, Caesar Cruz’s back, while he sat unarmed, still buckled into his seatbelt. It began long before the Orange County District Attorney’s office found that the shooting was “justified.” Her heartache began when Caesar — a Latino male, a son, husband, and father of five—like so many people of color in California, and across the country, began being consistently targeted and racially profiled by law enforcement.

Ms. Smith says, “He would call me all the time and say that they stopped and would search him for no reason. They profiled him as a gang member because of his race, his baldhead, and his tattoos. They would make excuses to stop him in his car, or while he was walking to his children’s school and often they would not even give him a ticket. This would happen at least once-a-month.” So much was lost on that fateful day in 2009; not only for Caesar’s family, but also for his entire community who was robbed of a kind soul, a gentle storyteller, an engaged father, and a community volunteer. Theresa Smith is heartbroken, but she is also determined and powerful.

On September 2, 2015, Theresa Smith went to Sacramento, along with over 1,000 concerned residents from across the state, to advocate for AB 953. While in front of the large crowd, she spread Caesar’s ashes on the steps of the Capitol building. She said, “I wanted to bring Caesar with me to Sacramento and I want to leave a part of him here.”  She closed by saying, “for us, as mothers who have lost our children so suddenly and so violently, there is no justice. So what we are asking for instead is accountability.” With the passage of AB 953, California is on its way to ensuring police accountability for all of the Theresa Smith’s in California—of whom there are far too many.

Caesar and Theresa are why we resist!