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Latino teens disappointed by Efren Carrillo’s arrest



For years, Efren Carrillo has been a “career day” regular at Sonoma County schools.

At campuses such as Roseland Accelerated Middle School in Santa Rosa and Cali Calmécac Language Academy in Windsor, the member of the county Board of Supervisors took seriously his job as an inspirational role model,

Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo leaves after facing Judge Gary Medvigy at a hearing at the Sonoma County Superior Court in Santa Rosa on Thursday, July 18, 2013. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo leaves after facing Judge Gary Medvigy at a hearing at the Sonoma County Superior Court in Santa Rosa on Thursday, July 18, 2013. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

always encouraging young Latino students to work hard and make the most of their parents’ sacrifices — just as he has done.

Carrillo’s story has resonated with countless children growing up in Sonoma County’s immigrant communities, from college-bound students to at-risk gang wannabes. He chided them to do better in school, cleaned up garbage and graffiti alongside them and connected with them on a personal level few others in public office could.

For some of these young people, the arrest of the county’s first Latino supervisor — on suspicion of prowling and burglary with the intent to commit sexual assault — is troubling on a personal level.

“He was like my idol,” said Melina Rivera, 18, a Windsor High School graduate who will attend Sonoma State University in the fall.

Rivera said Carrillo visited her AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination, class a few months ago to talk to students to about their goals and relate his experiences.

“I heard his story and got really inspired,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God. I want to be like him, I want to have a future and be like him.’”

Carrillo, wearing just underwear and socks, was arrested near his west Santa Rosa home in the pre-dawn hours of July 13 after a nearby resident called 911 to report that someone was trying to get into her home through her bedroom window.

He is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 30 after being arrested on suspicion of burglary with what Santa Rosa police said was an intent to commit some sort of sexual offense.

Carrillo issued a statement describing the incident as “embarrassing” and one that “involved alcohol.”

It is the second time in less than a year that he has been arrested and been the target of a criminal investigation. San Diego authorities eventually chose not to prosecute him in the wake of a Labor Day street brawl outside a nightclub that left an Arizona man unconscious.

Educators and community organizers said many Latino students are shocked and disbelieving, confused by the news as it unfolded last week.

“For many Latino students, there are so few people in their lives that have reached that level of success,” said Rebekah Cox Rocha, assistant principal at Cali Calmécac.

Rocha, who said she’s heard Carrillo speak to students many times, said he always got a round of enthusiastic applause when he told kids he was the first Latino to be elected to the Board of Supervisors.

“His story was their story. He could be their brother,” she said. “I’m just so devastated. He spoke to so many kids and his message meant so much to them.”

His background is familiar by now. He is the son of once-undocumented immigrants from Mexico who legalized their status under former President Ronald Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

His parents built their home using sweat equity and with the help of Habitat for Humanity. He attended Santa Rosa High School, earned a black belt in taekwondo as a teenager, received a bachelor’s degree in environmental economics and policy from UC Berkeley and experienced a quick rise in local politics, becoming supervisor at the age of 27.

In 2010, he told The Press Democrat that his parents’ sacrifices were a prime motivator in his own youth. “I would sit in class and think that these guys really put it out there for us; I’m not going to disappoint them,” he said.

Vince Harper, senior program manager at Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County, said Carrillo was the “go-to-guy” when, even on short notice, a local leader was needed at community events that young kids, particularly Latinos, would relate to.

“He really would take the time to talk to kids,” Harper said, adding that he often left young people with the impression that they “could follow in his footsteps.”

Lisa Maldonado, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council, said Carrillo’s recent arrest, while “reprehensible,” does not diminish the side of the man who “has done good things, working hard, going to school. Trying to do positive things.”

But she said the local community is “seeing another dimension” to Carrillo. And while Carrillo may ultimately redeem himself, he is not the only Latino role model in Sonoma County, Maldonado said.

She specifically mentioned young leaders such as Jesus Guzman, a Sonoma County immigrant rights activist, and Davin Cardenas, a West County labor organizer, as those deserving of emulation.

“It’s hard because (Carrillo) was held up to such a degree of adulation … it’s a long fall,” she said.

Josefina Olvera, who is set to attend Sonoma State in the fall, said that while she considered Carrillo a role model, she sympathizes with the unidentified victim in the case.

“I would have done the same thing she did, call the police. I would have been scared,” she said.

Olvera said that regardless of the legal outcome of the criminal investigation, Carrillo’s legacy has been permanently marred by his actions.

“I don’t look at him the same,” she said. “For him to do that doesn’t set a good example for us.”

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com.

9 Responses to “Latino teens disappointed by Efren Carrillo’s arrest”

  1. Follower says:

    There are too many people dependant on racial conflict for their livelihoods to ever allow the haters to fade into history.
    From Sharpton/Jackson to the Press Democrat, whether it be their primary source of income or a little boost in advertisement revenue. Hate can be very profitable.

    Politicians have perfected the art of using people’s emotions to manipulate them. There’s no stronger emotion than hate.

    My very favorite, undisputable example of people being manipulated by their hate is this quote:

    ‘voting is the best revenge’
    …worked didn’t it?!!

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  2. chuck reilly says:

    Sonoma County has elected an extremely conservative District Attorney. Even minor crimes are frequently charged as felonies; often multiple counts. I live in San Mateo County where huge new jails are under construction, employing vast numbers of Public Employees, and millions of $ worth of vehicles and equipment. Anyone here against government spending ?

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  3. If you too believe Efren Carrillo should resign, please sign and circulate the following petition:


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  4. Eddie Alvarez says:

    Our role models? Our parents and their sacrifices; work ethic so great it can be a desease (workaholic), but as far as economical knowledge we lack a great deal. Lack of schooling doesnt allow experiences on higher learning or obtaining a higher paying job.

    Its why those downplaying his actions make me sick. He’s a puppet and has always been a puppet. His masters slapped some lipstick on him, slapped him on his behind and sent him out the door. You the gullable ate it all up.

    Encouraging our youth to do what? Sell you and your community to the highest bidder in order for self betterment?

    I seen it the whole time, yet i had to shut my mouth. Why? Tired of being pulled over and while most get tickets i got arrested for bieng brown n down, tired of seeing the youth looking towards gangs and drugs as an escape as i once did, frustrated by seeing those act like they cared for all but in reality were just hungry for attention, yet i was willing to allow a sellout to lead if it meant others would have an increased chance at success.

    As the first person of color to run for said position i am disgusted by Efrens actions. They mean so much more than he could ever know, and more than his puppet masters care to know.

    To our youth id say keep your head up! What starts dirty, dirty it shall finish. Choosing the easy way is sometimes not the best way, but savor the struggle because one day it will taste like molé.

    To those on the outside looking in id implore you to not make the generalization. Apart from the sheeople their are plenty of us with eyes wide open. We will not be blinded by smoke. We shall not be fooled by those seeking to rape our land. We are in the struggle for a better Sonoma County. An equal home that allows us and those from the future to live without fear. Long Live Sonoma County!!!!

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  5. Reality Check says:

    What kind of charges can Joe Sixpack expect if he’s caught trying to break into a women’s apartment at 3-something in the morning? A misdemeanor? No, I don’t think so.

    Carrillo gets charged with a felony or Carrillo’s getting treated differently than the rest of us.

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  6. Reality Check says:

    This is a sad article. Despite our best efforts to move beyond race we can’t seem to escape its divisive influence. Are young people today capable of being inspired by only people of their own tribe or gender? It doesn’t sound like it.

    If Carrillo’s achievements say something about the potential of Latinos, should his failings to be equally generalized? One hopes not.

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  7. GAJ says:

    If he’s truly serious about setting a proper example for the kids he should resign; that’s the only honorable thing to do.

    Anything else would be disingenuous.

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  8. Steveguy says:

    By the way, I don’t think that his weird behavior should qualify as a felony.

    To overcharge an incident is weak and other-motivated to me. To try to make any transgression a felony results in the highest incarceration place in the world. That would be us.

    He should promise to resign and fulfill the duties until a replacement. But how can he even show up anymore without a circus ?

    Resign now.

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  9. Steveguy says:

    I think that more than just ‘Latino teens’ have a problem with this.

    Efren, resign and go sell used cars, you are a natural.

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