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Sheriff reverses decision, orders staff to review Ruben Salazar records

August 10, 2010 |  4:18 pm

Ruben Salazar. Reversing his previous decision, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said Tuesday that he was directing his staff to determine what records might be released regarding former Times columnist and KMEX-TV News Director Ruben Salazar, who was slain by a deputy in 1970.

On Monday, Baca said that he was refusing to release records requested by The Times that might shed light on the newsman's slaying.

The killing, which occurred during a riot in East Los Angeles, left a wound that has yet to heal 40 years later and caused many to question whether Salazar was targeted intentionally. The Sheriff's Department has said the slaying was a tragic accident and that the deputy was operating under riot conditions when he fired a tear-gas missile into the Silver Dollar Bar, where Salazar and a KMEX reporter were taking a break from covering the action on Aug. 29, 1970.

Baca's decision came on the same day that the Board of Supervisors directed county attorneys to determine whether the eight boxes of documents were public records and what the costs would be if documents were releasable. The motion was sponsored by Supervisor Gloria Molina.

Baca spokesman Steve Whitmore said the sheriff changed his mind because he wants to have all the facts before deciding whether any of the eight boxes of records will be released.

"The sheriff is going to examine all the options and let the analysis of the documents go forward," Whitmore said. "Then he will make a decision."

Charlie Erickson, a friend of Salazar's who believes he was murdered, said that all the records should be released.

"We'd like to get some answers. Let's hope that something in those boxes will lead us a step closer," Erickson said. 

The Times filed a California Public Records Act Request with the department in March seeking the records. Other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and Los Angeles Police Department, have previously released records to The Times regarding Salazar.

-- Robert J. Lopez

Photo: Ruben Salazar. Credit: Associated Press