February 8, 2017 is the day that forever changed my life, the day that cops killed my first and best friend in life, my big brother, Michael Barrera.
My brother was full of life, engaged to be married and awaiting the arrival of his second baby girl when cops viciously took his life. He was unarmed, not posing a threat and handcuffed when he was beaten, tasered multiple times, dog piled, and suffocated to death by multiple officers of Woodland Police Department in our hometown of Woodland in Northern California.
His last words were “I can’t breathe.”
I saw right through their bullshit from the get-go. My family was at the hospital shortly after my brother was killed, no thanks to being notified by police.
We were inside a room in the emergency room, two doors down from the room where his body was but the door was being blocked by multiple Woodland police officers.
When a nurse attempted to take my mom inside the room, they blocked her from entering. They also blocked the hospital's chaplain from entering as well.
I will never forget the chaplain's words when he came in to our room to do a prayer for my brother with the family, “Michael died a very brutal and violent death.”
They never did let us in that room and I regret not bursting in there like my heart was telling me to.
Next, I ditched the hospital and headed over to my brother’s home because I had been told police were there. It was just a couple hours after my brother was killed and I was face-to-face with officers of Woodland Police Department.
It was here when I truly realized that these cops cannot be trusted and are now our enemies because they chased me, lied to me and shook their handcuffs at me in an attempt to intimidate me. They wanted me and my eyes to be gone.
They didn't kill him at his home and they had no warrant, so they had no business being there.
Yet they threatened to arrest me for “borderline breaking a law” as they lied through their teeth.
These officers had already ransacked his home and dead-bolted it from the inside, laughing at me as I tried to open the door with the key. I made sure to record all of this and have them later admitting to going inside the home without a warrant using a fabricated excuse.
Following his death, the cops never allowed us to identify his body, even though we tried to demand it. Instead, they told us the body must be transported to McNary's Chapel funeral home, which I later learned, was another piece to this sick puzzle.
After taking to Facebook for advice, I received tips from a multiple former funeral home employees that we needed to get his body out of there now because they do shady work and are in bed with local law enforcement agencies. We had him moved to another funeral chapel. which took then two days as they claimed they don’t work on weekends.
More than two months later, we received the autopsy and coroner's report, which listed the death is defined as “undetermined,” claiming they were unable to determine if his death was an accident or a homicide.
This should be a no-brainer as it’s obvious my brother would still be here if it wasn’t for the brutal assault. It's not like he slipped and hit his head.
The autopsy showed that my brother had injuries all over his body, including multiple, large contusions on his face as well as taser burns on his body.
However, the press releases that were issued to the media and community claimed my brother had “no visible, physical injuries on his body."
When we were finally able to see his body five days later, those injuries were not visible because they had tampered with his body. There were not supposed to do any type of work or changes on my brother's body, but they did. He was badly beaten and the lies were never ending.
False facts, cover ups and deceit were just the beginning. Their story changed four times in two days after they released a horrible press release full of lies, basically telling our community that they did us a favor.
I took it upon myself to be the speaker and detective for my family, to share and find the truths of my brother’s story and demand accountability and transparency.
Let’s just say, the Woodland Police Department and half the town hate me for that. I literally went door to door questioning people where it happened, interviewing eyewitnesses, obtaining surveillance video that captured some of my brother’s last moments alive.
The year 2017 ended with a total of 1,194 killings by police in the United States with Michael being #141. Since his death, I've connected with families across the country who have lost loved ones to police violence. Our stories of the aftermath are eerily similar, from how we heard (or didn’t) of the death, hiding the bodies from us, to the media’s lies and being gang-stalked by the very same cops who killed them.
The fact the we are treated horribly, lied to, manipulated and violated of our rights at such a vulnerable time has prompted me to begin writing my book, “When Kops Kill," which will serve as a manual to guide families and will share our truths.
I will also be writing regular columns for Photography is Not a Crime on this topic, so feel free to reach out to me if a family was wrongly killed by police so I can tell your story in order to help other families cope.
I’m a fighter so I continue fight and raise awareness on the police brutality epidemic for my brother, and other victims. For this, I’ve been mocked, ridiculed and have personally been retaliated against but I will not be stopped. and I let it be known, cops picked the wrong sister.
My family currently has a pending civil case against the officers involved and the City of Woodland. We expect to go to trial sometime in 2019. The truth I’ve obtained on my own is ugly, and I can only imagine what more we have yet to uncover.
They took my brother’s last breath and I will keep fighting until my last breath.
Rest In Power Michael Barrera.