The 1973 Murder of 12-Year-Old Santos Rodriguez

A Dallas Police Officer murdered 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez in the front-seat of a police car during an illegal interrogation.

            In the early morning hours of July 24, 1973, Dallas Police officers Darrell L. Cain and Roy Arnold responded to a burglary call at a Fina gas station at 2301 Cedar Springs Road in what was known as the barrio of Little Mexico in Dallas. The officers saw three people fleeing from the station as they arrived. Eight dollars in change had been taken in the burglary.[1]  Officer Cain, after hearing witness descriptions, believed two of the suspects might be 13-year-old David Rodriguez and his 12-year-old brother Santos.

            Officers Cain and Arnold then drove to the home of Carlos Miñez, the boys’ foster grandfather who was caring for them while their mother was in prison. The boys, clad in their pajamas and shoeless, were handcuffed, placed in the patrol car, and driven to the gas station. Upon arrival at the gas station, Santos Rodriguez was in the front seat of the squad car with Officer Arnold, and David Rodriguez was in the back seat of the car with Officer Cain.[2] David explains what happened next in an interview with the Dallas Morning News:

“They were trying to force us to say that we burglarized a Coke machine out of $8,” David Rodriguez said. “We had nothing to do with that that night. He was mostly questioning my brother. When he wasn’t getting the answers he wanted, that is when he pulled out his gun. He opened the cylinder with me right next to him. I couldn’t really tell if he was emptying it or filling it. He put the gun up to his [Santos’] head. He said, ‘Now you are going to tell him the truth.’”[3]

            There in the squad car parked in an empty lot next to the Fina station Officer Cain pointed his .357 magnum revolver at Santos Rodriguez’s head, demanding that the child confess to the burglary. David Rodriguez, in the jury trial testified that:

 …[Officer] Arnold asked Santos if anybody else had been with them at the station and Santos replied they had not been at the station earlier…Cain took out his pistol, opened the cylinder and twirled it. David could see bullets in chambers of the cylinder and saw no empty chambers. Appellant [Cain] then shut the cylinder and aimed it at Santos' head. David observed no attempt to unload the pistol. Appellant [Cain] told Santos to tell them if he and his brother had burglarized the service station. When Santos denied the burglary Appellant [Cain] clicked the gun, stated the pistol had a bullet in it and told Santos to tell the truth. Appellant [Cain] then clicked the gun and it fired, striking the still handcuffed deceased, Santos Rodriguez, in the head. Appellant [Cain] jumped out of the patrol vehicle and stated, "Oh, my God."[4]

           Cain and the other officer in the car exited the vehicle leaving David still handcuffed and sitting in the backseat. David recalls that he tried to reassure his younger brother, saying to him, “You’re going to be alright,” but no response came from his brother in the front seat.  Blood from his brother’s fatal head wound flowed into the backseat floorboard, touching David Rodriguez’s bare feet.[5]

            Officer Darrell Cain claimed that he believed he had emptied the chambers of his revolver and he did not mean to shoot Santos Rodriguez. Within days of the shooting, the Dallas Police Department suspended Cainand prosecutors filed murder charges. At trial the jury found Cain guilty of murder with malice (from the former Texas Penal Code) and sentenced him to five years.[6]

            Immediately after the shooting protests sprang up in Dallas. The March of Justice for Santos Rodriguez, held on July 28, 1973 resulted in a violent clash between police and protestors in Dallas. The ripples of the violent murder of twelve-year-old Santos Rodriguez still haunt not only his surviving family, but many residents of Dallas as well.  U.S. President Jimmy Carter stated that the shooting was “something that any American would be ashamed of.”[7]

             At a rally held July 24, 2013, a group of community activists called on the City of Dallas to finally apologize to the family of Santos Rodriguez.  On Saturday, September 21, 2013, forty years after the murder, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings apologized to the Rodriguez family for the killing of twelve-year-old Santos Rodriguez.[8]   



Other Sources/Resources:


“Dallas apologizes for 40-year-old murder.”  The Daily Campus, September 26, 2013.


Eric Nicholson. “Forty Years Ago, A Dallas Cop Shot a Twelve-Year-Old in the Head. Hispanic Leaders Haven’t Forgotten.” Dallas Observer. July 22, 2013.


“Handcuffed Boy, 12, Shot Dead in Squad Car by Dallas Officer.” New York Times. July 25, 1973.


“Retired Officer Remembers the Night Santos Rodriguez was Killed.” July 27, 2013.


“Santos Rodriguez,” by Shirley Achor for Texas State Historical Association.


[1] CBS Local Media, July 27, 2013 “Retired Officer Remembers the Night Santos Rodriguez was Killed.”


[2] “Cain V State.” Darrell L. Cain, Appellant, v. The State of Texas, Appellee, Case No. 52217. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, March 9, 1977.


[3] Diane Solis. “Forty Years After Santos Rodriguez’s Murder, Scars Remain for Family, Neighbors and Dallas. Dallas Morning News. July 21, 2013.


[4]“Cain V State.”


[5] Solis, “Forty Years After…” Dallas Morning News, July 21, 2013


[6]“Cain V State.”


[7] Anthony Marro. “U.S. Bars Role in Killing in Dallas.” New York Times. July 15, 1978. 


[8] Reginald Hardwick. “Mayor Rawlings Apologizes to Family of Santos Rodriguez.” NBCDFW online article dated September 21, 2013.


Cite this Page:

Donna M. Gosbee, “The 1973 Murder of 12-Year-Old Santos Rodriguez,” Human Rights Dallas Maps, accessed May 23, 2024,

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