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Tucson police kill Chicano teen as he attempts to surrender

Commentary by staff |
September 4, 2020

Tucson, AZ - At 11 a.m. on August 26, undercover Tucson police officers set up a drug deal with a 17-year-old suspected of armed robberies. After the deal, the young Chicano, identified by the Tucson Police Department as Simon Pancho, realized it was a sting operation and attempted to run. Within four seconds he was hit with two bullets and died as medical help arrived.

On September 2, TPD released the body cam footage but the first four minutes is footage of the suspect’s alleged crimes of armed robbery. What’s more is the officer narrating the video used the phrase “at age 17, technically he is a juvenile” as if to insinuate he is an actual adult but only the pesky law limits the ability to show his face.

What follows the demonization footage of this teenager is the brief interaction that led to TPD killing him. As Pancho realized the cops were charging at him, he turned and grabbed his gun from his waistband, switched hands with it to run, and within a few strides put out his foot to stop himself and threw the gun to the side. This was an attempt to surrender. But TPD officers instantly yelled “gun” and shot a 17-year-old kid as he attempted to stop, throw away his weapon and surrender. He never got that chance.

This must serve as an opportunity to educate many who believe the killer cop narrative and forego constitutional rights in favor Judge Dredd-style cops who are judge, jury and executioner. If Simon Pancho did commit the crimes he is accused of, it must be understood within a context of the rapacious social cuts of a decaying monopoly capitalism.

That a Chicano teen in Arizona may have turned to criminal means and was killed while surrendering must not go without understanding the national oppression experienced by Chicanos in the Southwest. Aztlan is the historic home of Mexican-American people forged into a nation oppressed by U.S. imperialism. Since the ending of the theft of Mexican land by pro-slavery forces in the U.S. in 1848, Mexican-Americans in the Southwest have established a common economic life, culture, psychological make-up, and language all on a common territory. The features of national oppression still present in Arizona today include the restriction of the freedom of movement (SB1070), the repression of language, and denial of quality education. This oppressed nation has the right to self-determination and that struggle for national liberation constitutes a revolutionary struggle and a blow against Imperialism, the system of monopoly capitalism.

In Arizona specifically, the state has seen a significant shift toward conservative domination, with massive tax cuts for the rich and corporations resulting in a drain of public school resources, social programs and mental health services. Over the last ten years Arizona has consistently ranked in the bottom five states in the category of “Child Well Being” in data analysis by the Annie E. Casey annual report Kids Count. These are the material conditions that so many Chicano, Native American and African American youth grow up in.

This is at least the third death on the Tucson Police Department’s hands this year. In March and April, TPD killed two Chicanos, Damien Alvarado and Carlos Ingram-Lopez, with hogtie techniques, spit hood, and body weight.

As police crimes continue to ravage oppressed nationalities, the demand for community control of police is not only possible but necessary.