Elias Guadarrama Murder Cover-Up By Police; Local Police Involved with Elias Guadaramma’s Death Investigated By the Department of Justice


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“Your son has committed suicide,” is a statement no mother of a promising young man expects to hear, but that is what Omega Velez heard at 3 am on the night of January 27th, 2014 about her son, Elias Guadaramma. Neither she nor her family–nor any of 22-year old Elias’ many friends–believed that he had committed suicide. Many believed that he had actually died of a police shot(s) to the head after the documented 30 minute Bradenton police chase through a neighborhood near his home, during which the police had not only shot at him, without shots returned, but during which Elias surrendered on his knees twice. (Hence it is highly unlikely he was armed, as they claimed, and so also would have been unable to commit suicide as they allege.) Their apparent motive for stopping him initially: they had seen a woman get into his truck and suspected a drug deal was occurring. Three years later—after four lawyers and an aborted wrongful death suit—Omega Velez has been able to get only an initial investigation into the death of her son and is hoping that it will become a full DOJ investigation so that justice will be served.

From the beginning, Ms. Velez did not believe her son had committed suicide and immediately had her son’s body transported to a forensic pathologist who determined that Elias Guadaramma had not committed suicide. One bit of the vast evidence that stands out: the gunshot wound that killed him had been to the left side of the head and Elias was right-handed, and Elias had no tell-tale blood or gun residue on his hands. However, one of the officers DID have gun residue on his hands, as evidenced by a police photo taken at the time, proving they had been shooting (despite their false claim that Elias’ had been the only one to do any shooting).

Also, despite the gun allegedly-used supposedly having been found on his chest, the police reported that he shot himself while lying down. Then, it became apparent from the autopsy photos that there were gun-trace marks on both of his arms indicating that his arms had been behind his head when the shot was fired.  Also multiple indications existed that he had been on his knees when he was killed, including blood on the bottom of his shoes and a witness’ report.  However, despite this and other evidence, no thorough investigation by the Bradenton police internal affairs board was ever done, as they said it was an “open and shut case” like they do in all deaths where police claim the death was suicide.

“I am Catholic and so my son and I both believed it is a sin to commit suicide. I cried for a year straight after his death and asked in vain for a thorough investigation by local police oversight board. They told me that they never investigate cases which the police say are suicides.” Ms. Velez lamented. They also told her that they would not give her copies of the police photos, which contained evidence of the police shooting of Elias, until she closed the case. “Police should not be trusted to investigate themselves,” concluded Ms. Velez.

While she began the arduous process—on her own—of assembling much of the evidence, she went to the most reputable lawyers she could find in the area, and used all of her credit savings (from having a housekeeping business) seeking justice. However, in an apparent travesty of justice, despite hiring multiple attorneys to work on opening a complaint against the Bradenton police officers involved and organizing multiple public protests, and a formal complaint lodged against the four officers involved, the officers involved were not charged with any crimes. The officers’ involved with the chase and killing of Elias were Officer Joseph Palmeri (who ordered Elias out of his car), Officer Daniel Kane, Officer Charles Wolfinger, and Sargeant Cary Chapman, all of whom told different versions of Elias’ “suicide”.

One of the many lawyers Ms. Velez consulted during the next two years filed a wrongful death claim, but then quit unexpectedly. Another said that such cases against police officers were too hard to win and that lawyers were afraid to take on such cases. Multiple public protests in conjunction with the concurrent Black Lives Matter protests were organized for her by the ANSWER coalition during this time as well.

Nothing was happening after a year, and Ms.Velez’ mental health began to deteriorate. She would understandably occasionally become angered with the stalemate in justice for her son and lash out in frustration at her family and those who sought to help her. She sometimes stood on public streets holding signs reading “Justice for Elias” by herself. Luckily, a Black Lives Matter supporter took up her cause, and Ms. Velez began to have hope that justice might occur for her son.

Last January, 2016,  two years after the death of her son, she was able to travel with mothers of other local victims of police brutality to Washington, D.C.. There they met with Florida Representative Alan Grayson, where they received some sympathy. A few months later, Ms. Velez filed and re-filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, with the help of her advocate. In August, Ms. Velez finally received word that the case had been assigned to an agent in the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, but a back-log of cases would most likely impede any speedy investigation and that Ms. Velez would not even know if any charges would be filed until February of 2017.

According to the advocate: “Whether or not the case will be properly investigated and justice served remains to be seen. Some lawyers here do not believe that the DOJ will do anything at all. We are hopeful that they will, especially since President Obama held a national press conference last summer with law enforcement and civil rights leaders calling for more thorough investigations into the police killings of minority members, whom Obama said are being inordinately and lethally targeted at an epidemic rate by a certain strain of police officers. It’s just a bit discouraging that Trump won the 2016 Presidential election, as he ran on the promise of being the “Law and Order” president.  He seems not to be interested in investigating police brutality and his attorney general pick, Sessions, was disqualified from a federal judgeship a few years ago because of his history of racism.”

“I was really glad when I heard that President Obama wants to see these kinds of cases thoroughly investigated by the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice,” says Ms. Velez. “Police are covering up their murders with the story of suicide. Obviously, police cannot investigate themselves and could easily call their murder of someone a “suicide”, especially with the cooperation of the police autopsy pathologist. So the FBI should be required by law to investigate cases of “suicide” in police custody. What scares me is that I know that these local police killed my son, and that they haven’t been investigated or caught yet—so they could easily strike again. I have talked to too many other local victims of police brutality—it’s like these cops are serial killers on the loose.”

When asked what reforms she believes may stop this kind of police brutality, she says, “ I think one of the demands that Black Lives Matter and the public should make to help curb police brutality is that police should be drug tested and receive mental health evaluations every quarter, and that they are not allowed to investigate themselves when a death has happened to someone in the hands of police. Another thing that we must demand is that police actions be regulariy reviewed for any indication that they have become corrupt or are working with organized crime. I pray for justice for my son every day and that the laws will change so every case of police brutality will be properly investigated.”

Ms. Velez and the Justice for Eli Committee are asking those who care to call the Department of Justice and request that the investigation of Elias Guadaramma’s death be expedited. The number to call is 202-514-3204. Also, call Senator Bill Nelson’s office at 202-224-5274.

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