LULAC Demands Full Independent Investigations Into The Deaths Of Two Latinas In West Texas
Nation’s Largest and Oldest Latino Civil Rights Organization Says Families Deserve Answers for the Lives of Heather Rodriguez and Jasmine Melendez
Washington, DC – The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is urging complete and transparent investigations by outside law enforcement agencies and federal authorities into possible civil rights violations involving the deaths of a 29-year-old Odessa, Texas mother of three children and a 15-year-old Midland, Texas high school student. The communities are less than 30-minutes apart.
“These two tragic incidents are part of the growing trend across the country and Puerto Rico involving women and violence, often at the hands of intimate partners,” says Elsie Valdes-Ramos, LULAC National Board Member and Vice-President for Women. “LULAC stands with their families in calling for a thorough examination by independent law enforcement officials beyond the respective communities where the deaths occurred. This is the only way to ensure that all the evidence is thoroughly examined and the facts brought out. LULAC will not rest until all those responsible for the alleged crimes or involved in a cover-up, including the police, are held accountable. The lives of Latinas are not cheap, and we want justice!" added Valdes-Ramos.
Heather Rodriguez was killed November 11, 2021, in what Odessa police are describing as a murder-suicide at the hands of an ex-boyfriend. Rodriguez was shot multiple times and killed in her car on a residential street. The killing happened in broad daylight as she attempted to escape her attacker, who rammed his truck into her vehicle. Her family says Rodriguez and they had contacted police for several months before the shooting and were told there was insufficient evidence for an arrest. The young mother was laid to rest Tuesday, November 23, 2021, in Odessa. She leaves behind children, ages 5 to 11 years old.
"We know domestic violence has been a problem for a long time, and COVID has only made this danger bigger because families are secluded at home and money problems,” says Liliana Marquez, Hispanic Heritage President, a Project of LULAC in Odessa. “I blame the system that doesn’t have the resources and the ability to help these women, who don’t have the money or may not feel like they can go on, on their own and be self-sufficient. The support of our community and our awareness are vital, but so is changing our culture that often tells a woman to stay in a place where she's in danger," adds Marquez.
The death in Midland, Texas, of 15-year-old Jasmine Melendez, is equally concerning to LULAC. Melendez was an active high school student and a softball athlete who died at a friend's home on October 20, 2020. Investigators say they are keeping the circumstances of the girl’s death confidential because of her age, and medical forensics officials claim Melendez died of a cerebral air embolism. They say the air bubble traveled from another part of her body via an artery to her brain. The family disputes that conclusion and states the teenager was the victim of a sexual assault and severe beating. They charge police with keeping the facts hidden because of who the alleged attacker and his family are in the community.
"Texas LULAC is committed to defending Latinas against domestic violence and abuse," says Rodolfo Rosales, Jr., Texas LULAC State Director. "We also believe stronger laws would allow officers to question someone making reported domestic threats. Police can only enforce the laws on the books, but they can and should hear a woman or family’s cries for help in these sensitive situations. LULAC wants an outside investigation, including for the U.S. Justice Department to find out all the facts, wherever these may lead,” says Rosales.
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation’s largest and oldest Hispanic civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC’s programs, services, and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting the critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit https://lulac.org/