DALLAS — He’s an artist who is known for capturing the human spirit. In his latest sculpture, Seth Vandable says he’s put his heart into creating a piece that portrays tragedy, injustice and hope.
"I wanted to show this was a child, an innocent child and the magnitude of what was taken was a child from his family," he said.
Vandable created a statue for 12-year old Santos Rodriguez.
On July 24, 1973, Dallas police officer Darrell Cain took Santos and his 13-year old brother David to the Fina gas station on Cedar Springs Road.
The brothers were handcuffed in the back of a squad car.
Cain was interrogating them about a petty theft of a cigarette machine at the gas station and trying to get a confession by playing Russian Roulette. He shot Santos in the head.
Santos' mother Bessie Rodriguez says she has lived with the pain since that day.
”When I found out I was heartbroken and I didn’t know what to say. I was too shocked and too hurt,” Rodriguez said.
The murder sparked protests and outrage. Thousands of people took to the streets to protest. They burned police vehicles and looted stores downtown.
”It was anger. There was no other way to say it. It was extreme anger,” said community activist Frances Rizzo.
Rizzo was among those who demanded justice for Santos and even attended Cain’s murder trial.
”I saw the character witnesses testify on what a wonderful person [the officer] was and I wanted to throw up and scream,” Rizzo said.
Cain was sentenced to five years in prison but served only two-and-a-half years.
”It was something that really hit us hard,” Rodriguez said.
For 48 years, Rodriguez has waited for something in her son’s honor and an acknowledgment of the injustice. That moment came this week.
WFAA was were there when she saw Santos’ statue for the first time.
”It’s an honor. It’s a big honor after so many years remembering all that and bringing it to life when he was so many years forgotten,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez put her fingerprint on the statue, right in the palm of Santos' hand.
”For me, it means a lot because it’s kind of her seal of approval. It's also leaving her mark, and part of her family will forever be a part of the piece. Really cool, definitely my favorite part of the piece,” Vandable said.
The statue shows a smiling Santos with his hands outstretched.
”You see the spirit carrying Santos on its back and he’s standing there proud and smiling. It makes you feel like God is taking care of him,” Rizzo said.
The statue will be placed at a park overlooking downtown Dallas on Rodriguez's birthday in September. It’s a monument of reflection, but also progress.
”A tragedy, but also a symbol of hope. It’s possible going forward,” Vandable said.