Signed by the “Samohi Assn. for the Advancement of Conservative White Americans,” a one-paged typed letter sent out in 1991 to hundreds of Spanish-surnamed families shook the community to its core.
Some parents kept their children at home out of fear that violence would erupt, and those who did attend class participated in assemblies, class discussions and writing assignments that sought to foster better relations in the wake of the official-looking hate letter.
Santa Monica Police Sgt. Bill Brucker told the Los Angeles Times in 1991 the Police Department was investigating the incident as a hate crime and had reported it to the FBI, but the perpetrator still hasn’t been found to this day.
“I was in my dorm room in 1991 when I got a call from my niece, reading the letter. And she was in tears and crying, and it was very hurtful to hear this,” Councilmember Oscar de la Torre said this week when the matter was brought forward to City Council.
“I had just graduated; I was a student body president at Santa Monica High and it was just a really tough thing to go through,” de la Torre added, recalling a demonstration in front of City Hall. “Anyways, I just want to say it was a very hard experience to deal with that. A lot of people in our community were very hurt by the letter that came out because it looked like it was an official thing from the school district.”
De la Torre said he feels compelled to have City Council recognize the 30-year anniversary of the unsolved 1991 act of hate because it’s something the community has talked about for some time. Councilmembers agreed it was best to acknowledge the harm caused by the incident and express regret that the investigation did not produce justice for those affected in a unanimous vote shortly after de la Torre’s introduction.
“We want to bring some type of resolution in a way that doesn’t give the perpetrator of this crime a victory in terms of dividing our community,” de la Torre said, asking if it would be feasible for the Santa Monica Police Department to provide an internal report to the Council on the investigation’s conclusions and findings, including whether the United States Postal Inspection Service or the Federal Bureau of Investigation was engaged in the matter, and share the report with the Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission.
“Every time that we’ve asked, ‘Hey, what’s going on with the investigation?’ People would say, ‘It’s under investigation. We can’t talk about it.’ But after 30 years, I don’t know if the investigation is still open or not; I doubt it, so I would just like to get some closure on this.”
Interim City Manager Lane Dilg said the City can’t justify a closed session item on the report but the police department is willing to release an information item to the public.
“That’s great,” de la Torre said, sharing a hope that the perpetrator would come forward and apologize since they are no longer eligible to face criminal conviction for the crime.