Police brutality against Latinos is a little-discussed issue actress, producer and documentarian Minerva Garcia cares about, marching and protesting against it for years. This weekend, she used theater to give voice to families who’ve lost loved ones in interactions with law enforcement.

Garcia performed “Impacted” at the Frida Kahlo Theater in Los Angeles. The four-scene bilingual work is described as a “docu theater workshop” based on interviews with four Southern California families that saw one of their members killed by police in the last five years. 

“I’ve literally taken the interviews that I did with every family and then enacted it,” Garcia said, noting that she edited the hours-long interviews for clarity and to fit them into a one-hour production. “I wanted to get these stories out into the world, for people to see what’s been going on for the past couple of decades.” According to Garcia, more than 1,000 people have been killed by law enforcement in LA County since 2000. “And between 80 and 90 percent of them are Latino and Black,” she said. These killings most often aren’t well covered by news media. 

Family members who lost their loved ones at the hands of the LAPD and LA Sheriff’s Department spoke after the performance about their struggle for justice.

In “Impacted,” Garcia, a seasoned actress with more than 30 years of experience in theater, TV, and film, plays the mother, sister, father and brother of four victims.

Anthony Vargas was shot 13 times and killed by the LA County Sheriff’s Department deputies, who Garcia alleged have possible ties to the deputy gangs. David Flores was shot and killed by the LAPD while reportedly having a mental health crisis. Mely Corado was killed by a police bullet while working at a Silver Lake Trader Joe’s store in 2018. Cesar Rodriguez was killed by an oncoming train when a Long Beach police officer tackled him after he allegedly failed to pay the train’s fare in 2017.

Actor Minerva Garcia in her one-woman docu theater performance expressed her concern and gratitude to family members for continuing to stand up against police violence.

Garcia discovered those stories after getting involved in the “abolitionist movement” that calls for the elimination of law enforcement agencies and carceral systems. It was another tragedy close to home that propelled the veteran actress to take that stand.

“I’ve been in the abolitionist movement since 2018, when my friend Vanessa Marquez was shot and killed by the South Pasadena Police Department on Aug. 30 of that year,” Garcia stated. Marquez was an actress whose credits included the Oscar-nominated film “Stand and Deliver” and the medical drama “ER.” Marquez suffered from autoimmune illnesses and was at risk of becoming homeless, recalled Garcia. Police reportedly responded to a “welfare check” of a woman having medical issues. “She was having a seizure,” said Garcia. “Police started interacting with her and an hour and a half later she was killed. It was completely tragic and avoidable.” With pain in her voice, she added, “She weighed only 84 pounds and was shot 16 times.” Marquez had a BB gun in her possession, according to police reports. Garcia also said that “she believes that Marquez would still be alive if the clinician that had accompanied police officers on that day had stayed to really help and counsel her about her health needs.”

Garcia recently honored her friend by writing “Pieces of V: A Memory Play.” Last year she also held a staged reading of it at the Frida Kahlo Theater. “Again, it’s about the issue of police violence,” states Garcia.

Garcia had no theater plans to revisit the topic of police violence.

But a friend of hers encouraged her to apply for a grant to share the stories of families of victims of police brutality she encountered at public protests. Garcia did and succeeded. “I got a small grant from the Eastside Arts Initiative,” she said with pride. EAI is an annual grant program of LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a nonprofit that supports arts initiatives and fosters collaborations to promote the arts in eastern Los Angeles County. The grant enabled Garcia to present the workshop of documentary theater and offer free admission.

Much more elaborate than a staged reading, the workshop had the feeling of a full stage play, incorporating video, music and scenography. A large TV screen put faces to the names of the four Latino victims of “Impacted” and also helped introduce the names of those telling the stories of the adapted interviews. The monitor also rolled long lists of people killed by police in each year of the past two decades.

Garcia even made small costume changes for each character featured in the four major scenes telling the stories.

In a heartbreaking scene, Doña Rosa Moreno recalled in Spanish how her son, Cesar, was reportedly pinned by an oncoming Metro train against the platform at Long Beach’s Wardlow Station. He had been pulled from a train by Long Beach PD for failure to pay for the ride. She said her son was killed for a $1.75 train fare. 

While no criminal charges were filed against the police officers, the family won a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the police department but the families point out the money doesn’t equate with justice and means little to them as it can never repair or bring back their loved one. Their families have been forever destroyed with pain. 

After the play, the real Doña Rosa joined a panel featuring the relatives whose interviews are the heart of “Impacted” as well as family members of African American victims of police brutality in LA County. During the discussion, Albert Corado Sr., the father of Mely, said he and his son were outraged after the LAPD and politicians lied claiming the bullet that killed Mely was from the man who ran from police but they would soon find that it was a police bullet. They also found them trying to discredit the young 27-year-old manager of the store by doing a toxicology report on her body. They believe the LAPD tried to find anything negative in an attempt to minimize her death. 

The family of Vargas shared during the discussion that police five years later continue to harass and attempt to intimidate them by driving by their house and waving to their kids, laughing and scaring them. Their children know the police killed their family member. Their lawsuit ended in a mistrial so they said the police responsible for killing 21-year-old Vargas have gone unpunished and still work in the neighborhood hence they see them all the time.

Garcia would like to turn “Impacted” into a fully-funded full theater production. “I hope that people are interested enough in the story that they want to hear about it,” she said. “I hope that people start questioning the police narrative we see in the media. This is my way to contribute to the movement, I can contribute as an actor, writer and director. I want to bring attention to the police brutality impacting the Latino community.”

For more information about the East Side Arts Initiative that assisted in this production and provides grants to artists go to: eastsideartsinitiative.org.

Editor Diana Martinez contributed to this article.