Sunday, June 22, 2014

Family Demands Transparent Investigation Into Killing of Yanira Serrano Garcia

On June 18, Tony Serrano stood before the Half Moon Bay City Council to demand justice for his sister, Yanira Serrano Garcia. Yanira was killed by San Mateo County Sheriff's deputy Menh Trieu on June 3 when she was having a health crisis outside of her home at the Moonridge housing complex. The Serrano family and their supporters are asking the Half Moon Bay City Council to support a number of resolutions, including one that calls for a transparent criminal investigation into the killing of the 18-year-old.

The family is also asking that June 3 be named "Yanira Serrano Garcia's Memorial Day" by official proclamation in Half Moon Bay, and that the council call for the establishment of a sub-committee to study the lack of social services devoted to Moonridge.

Yanira's brother asked for those in the audience who support the resolutions to stand, and the majority of those in the public seating area quickly stood.

"It is really overwhelming what is happening to the family," he said.

At the city council meeting, supporters were given time to speak before the public comment period, and more was learned about Yanira's health issues. Belinda Arriaga, a Half Moon Bay resident who has provided support to the family, referred to Yanira's condition as "schizophrenia." She described what life is like for a person suffering from it: everyday they require medication, treatment, psychiatric counseling, and support.

A family member later explained in an interview that schizophrenia was one possibility, but a doctor Yanira was seeing thought she was still too young to be diagnosed for certain.

Arriaga said the family is calling for a town hall meeting with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office take place at Moonridge as soon as possible.

She noted that there is a Sheriff's substation located at the large housing complex, but there isn't a mental health crisis unit that can serve the community.

"I know San Mateo County has it. I know they are very involved in mental health," Arriaga said, "but we need it here on the coast, and had we had it that night, it might have made a very big difference and this family wouldn't be sitting here right now with the loss of their loved one."

"Today it is Yanira. Tomorrow it might be one of your relatives. It might be one of our relatives here," she said. "You need to give this Latino community the justice they deserve."

"I think this is one of the first times you have seen this many Latino families here in this city hall, or in this building," she added.

One Half Moon Bay resident suggested the killing of Yanira might not have occurred if the Half Moon Bay Police Department, which was disbanded in 2011, was sent instead of the San Mateo Sheriff's Deputy. Half Moon Bay Mayor John Muller, however, was pointed out earlier in the meeting that whatever occurs in Moonridge is an "unincorporated situation."

The Moonridge housing complex is close to Half Moon Bay's city limits, but technically it is located in an area that is governed by the county. The mayor said that although Moonridge is out of the city's jurisdiction, "we as a city have stepped up." He listed several upcoming events the city has planned.

On Thursday, June 19, there will be a public meeting held at Moonridge with a District Attorney's representative to "explain the process of an investigation," and on Thursday, June 26 there will be a community meeting at 6pm at the IDES Hall in Half Moon Bay to "further discuss the issues," according to the mayor.

Tony Serrano speaks with Council Member Rick Kowalczyk before the meeting

Tony Serrano speaks with Mayor John Muller before the meeting

Tony Serrano

Half Moon Bay City Council, from left to right: Allan Alifano, Rick Kowalczyk, Mayor John Muller, and Naomi Patridge. Vice-Mayor Marina Fraser was absent.

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