May 4, 2001

The Public Forum ... El Foro Publico


Benny Flores, Man Armed Only With Scissors, Killed By Police

My name is Patricia Blinn and I am the niece of GABINO BENJAMIN FLORES; his friends and family called him "Benny" or "Chito"—I simply called him "Tio".

I will be the first to admit that Benny has not always been a saint. When he was young, he made some bad choices and was always living on the edge. He got involved in drugs and served time in prison. While in prison, Benny truly did make a choice that affected his entire view of life — he chose God.

For the past eleven (11) years, Benny has been living for God and volunteering time for his church in San Ysidro. We are a large family and are actively involved in a Pentecostal Christian organization (some would even call it "ultra-conservative").

The years of drugs and hard life took its toll on my uncle and was tearing it down. He was under the care of a psychiatrist and physician. He was a simple man and his son, "Benny, Jr" was his caretaker.

Recently, Benny had to change his medication due to Medicare and this medication was not as effective. Benny had no desire to eat or drink and his son could not force food upon him.

Benny became malnourished and dehydrated and his son had to call for assistance to take him to the hospital. The police had actually taken him to the hospital and admitted him.

I visited with my uncle on Sunday and he was very frail and still yellowed from jaundice. Benny is approximately 5'3" and weighed 120 lbs at the most. He was quite "slow" of speech and had forgotten most of his English, resorting to Spanish (his native language).

On Thursday, Paradise Valley Hospital released my uncle and failed to call any one of the many family members. Rather, they took him in the "paddy" wagon and dropped him off at his doorstep even though he was locked out of his own home (my cousin was not at home at the time).

Once home, again my uncle was refusing food and water and starvation was quickly setting in. Just a couple days later, Saturday, my uncle woke up with a pair of scissors in his hand and told his roommate that he could not go to work that day. He wanted him to stay home with him.

We don't understand why Benny was walking around with scissors. We do know that they were not pointy scissors (they were similar to the kind you would buy at a fabric store). The border was not totally aware of my uncle's medical condition and called the police). My cousin welcomed it only because he thought it would be good for my uncle to go back to the hospital so that he would start eating again and, possibly, they would change his medication.

The officers arrived and spoke with my cousin, Benny Jr. Benny Jr. informed them of the situation and they immediately released the dog and, of course, my uncle did what was natural — try to fight the dog off.

The officers (about 4-5 in total) could have easily removed the scissors from his hand.

One officer states that my uncle attempted to stab him with the scissors but he was wearing a bullet-proof vest. I find that quite humorous because as a woman, I could have blown on my uncle and he would have fallen over because he was so small and frail.

They mis-fired with the tazer gun (bumbling cops). They could have easily used a bean-bag rifle or tear gas — they had many options. Rather, they chose to shoot him on his doorstep in his living room.

Waco comes to mind... they sat out there for days waiting for them to come out. They at least tried many options and days had passed before resorting to the extremes.

The police will do their investigation and will be using the term "justifiable homicide." I call it "murder".

Patricia Blinn
Santee, CA

Tell Congress to Restore Student Loans to Marijuana Smokers!

Section 484, subsection `r' of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1998 denies student loans to any college student convicted of any state drug offense, even the simple possession of a couple of marijuana cigarettes. This is a needlessly harsh penalty which will force many low-income students to drop out of college, hardly a goal we should encourage. It will also have a disproportionate effect on minorities, especially African Americans, who comprise 13% of the nation's population, 14% of drug users, and 55% of those convicted for drug offenses.

In the two short years since the enactment of this provision, the devastating effects on the lives of young students is already being felt. According to the Department of Education, over 8,100 students have lost some or all of their federal aid during this 2000-2001 school year after revealing a drug conviction on the Federal Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA). In response, over 70 student government's across the country have formally called for a repeal of this provision.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has introduced HR 786 in the House of Representatives to repeal this counterproductive and harmful provision of the HEA. Prominent members of Congress such as Maxine Waters (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC), and Connie Morella (R-MD) have expressed a desire to see this harmful amendment repealed, and have signed on to co-sponsor the bill.

The U.S. Department of Education has spoken out against the student loan provision of the HEA, noting that judges already have the power to strip eligibility to student aid if they feel that an individual case warrants such action. The disqualification for minor drug offenses seems especially inappropriate, because no other criminal offense by college students disqualifies them from receiving student loans: not drunkenness and disorderly conduct; not even rape, robbery or assault.

While no one wants to encourage drug use, neither should we take away an individual's opportunity to obtain an education for such a minor offense. Please help restore eligibility for student loans to students convicted of minor, nonviolent marijuana offenses.

Take action now! Tell your Representative to sign on as a co-sponsor and do all in their power to support HR 786. Then urge your Senators to introduce a similar bill in the Senate.

Robert Calk
Kenosha, WI

Peace Up To His Old Tricks

Senator Steve Peace is up to bad tricks again in Sacramento. He's trying to deny minorities and the poor a fair trial in the courtroom by stopping pertinent information regarding police misconduct to be allowed inside.

This action by the senator borders on a kangaroo system of justice and a cold disregard for people's constitutional rights. All individuals regardless of their race or financial income should have a competent, well informed, and complete system of defense. Senator Peace should understand that decisions regarding the validity of information to case should be made within the walls of the courtroom. Our senator should also consider that sometimes the accused are in fact innocent and deserving of proper defense.

Unfortunately we as a community are being thrown a "Peace" of the Third Reich.

Virgil Pina
Chula Vista

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