The Senseless Death
of Mina Arevalo
On the morning
after Thanksgiving, November 29,1996, Northern California was
rocked again by domestic violence homicide. Mina Arevalo, 40
years old and the mother of two young teenagers, was shot nine
times by her husband Nick, who then committed suicide. Horrifyingly,
Mina's 13 year-old daughter discovered her parents' bodies.
homicide shocked a community still reeling from the murder of
Teresa Macias, a Sonoma woman tracked down and shot to death
by her estranged husband, Avelino, just seven months before.
Avelino then shot and wounded Teresa's mother, Sara, before
turning the gun on himself. Law enforcement apathy and misconduct
was so striking in the Macias case, it sparked a $15 million
lawsuit against Sonoma County Sheriff Mark lhde.
murder of Teresa Macias, Mina Arevalo's death is an indictment
of law enforcement's response to domestic violence. And as with
Macias, official records and interviews with friends and family
show police had been called many times before.
Calls to Police
weeks before the murder, on October 12th, Rohnert Park police
records show a domestic violence call to the Arevalo house.
Their report says Mina was uninjured and didn't want her husband
arrested. But when Mina later confided to a friend about the
dark bruises on her arms, chest and neck, she said police, "took
a cursory peek in bad light and walked out." When she told them
she at least wanted Nick to leave for the night, "she said the
officer told her, 'It's his house,"' the friend reports.
It was probably
this same incident Mina later described, saying police had laughed
in her face. "She said she asked for a Spanish-speaking officer
and they told her, 'We're not here just to please you,"' a friend
states. Mina told her friend that Nick left the house that night,
but returned as soon as police left. Enraged, he told her she
was a fool for calling police and began to beat her again. Mina
told her friend she called police again. "They told her that
if she didn't quit calling they'd arrest her. They never came."
Terrified, Mina slept in her van that night.
the original police report sent up to the district attorney
on this incident shows a corroborating witness: "He said he
saw the entire incident," the report states. That alone should
have been enough to alert the police supervisor and district
attorney there was enough evidence to press charges. The report
should have been sent back to police for further investigation;
instead the DA simply dumped the case for "lack of corroboration."
It wasn't until December 4th, five days after the murder, that
Ofcr. Polik (in a move with no apparent purpose but to cover
his ass) wrote a supplemental report detailing the eyewitness's
statement. Yet again, law enforcement apathy literally kills.
was not the first police knew of Nick Arevalo's violence. Neighbors
had repeatedly called to complain of his late-night shooting
sprees. And police dispatch records show six calls to the Arevalo
house in little more than a year, including one coded "domestic
dispute" in August 1995. The other 911 calls look harmless on
their face -- "vehicle abatement" and "animal complaint," for
example -- but read on.
and family confirm at least four times Mina called police to
report the beatings. One call corresponds by date to one of
the "barking dog" calls recorded by police dispatch. On November
4th -- less than a month before the murder and just two weeks
after the last domestic violence call -- Mina fled to a friend's
house after being beaten. She said she'd called police, but
they never came.
Stop the War!
here we are one year after Teresa Macias' murder -- one internal
sheriff's department investigation later, one State Attorney
General investigation later, one "Blue Ribbon Committee" report
later, who knows how many hundreds of thousands of dollars in
domestic violence grants later, and what do we get? Another
dead woman, and another report of police laughing in her face
as they crack jokes with her batterer; threatening to arrest
her and not him; failing to write an Emergency Protective Order;
using her children as translators; leaving her in worse danger
than when they arrived.
If we think
the Macias case prompted law enforcement to get their act together,
we need to think again.