DALLAS -- Dark skies loomed over Oakland Cemetery Wednesday morning, providing the somber backdrop for a graveside memorial for Santos Rodriguez Wednesday morning.
Forty years have passed since the 12-year-old was shot and killed by a Dallas police officer while being questioned in a squad car. But for his mother, time stands still. In death, her son is forever a little boy.
"I am left with a deep emptiness way down in my soul," said Bessie Rodriguez, Santos’ mother. "I don't sleep at night. I have dreams of him playing outside with my other children."
Santos and his brother were suspects in the robbery of a soda machine. They boys were accused of taking less than $10.
"He was a defenseless child that was not given a chance to live a life, become a man, or even have a family of his own," she said, reading from a prepared statement next to her son’s headstone.
The officer, Darrell L. Cain, was convicted of murder in November of 1973, but served only a five-year sentence.
Rodriguez’ brother, who was 13 at the time and sitting in the squad car next to Santos, said the officer was playing Russian roulette when the fatal shot was fired.
During a March for Justice on July 28, 1973, rioting broke out in downtown Dallas. Dozens of people were arrested and five officers were hurt.
Over the years, Bessie Rodriguez said the city has offered nothing more than empty words and broken promises. She says she's never received a formal apology for Santos' death.
"I just want to reiterate how necessary it is for this apology to happen to this family,” said Dr. Rick Halperin, director of the Human Rights Education Program at Southern Methodist University. “Not only so this family can go forward in peace and dignity, but so that this city can move forward."
Prayers were said, a poem was read, and flowers were left at Santos’ grave, but other community events are planned in his memory for those too young to know his story and for those still seeking justice on his behalf.
"We must remember Santos Rodriguez," said former Dallas city councilwoman Diane Ragsdale. "We must remember him with action, day by day."
At 6 p.m. Wednesday night, a panel discussion will be held at the Latino Cultural Center, located at 2600 Live Oak Street in Dallas. The Mexican American Historical League will discuss Santos’ death.
Saturday, there will be a community rally at Pike Park in Santos’ memory. It begins at 6:30 p.m.