Two boys were pulled from their beds, handcuffed, and placed in the back of a police car in Dallas, Texas, in the early hours of July 24, 1973. Only one lived to see July 25. Suspecting the Mexican-American brothers had stolen $8 from a vending machine and hoping for a confession, police officer Darrell Cain initiated a game of Russian roulette, per the Washington Post. The first time he pulled the trigger of his gun, pointed at Santos and David Rodriguez, aged 12 and 13 respectively, nothing happened. When he pulled the trigger a second time, he shot Santos in the head. For that, the Dallas Police Department apologized on Saturday, the 48th anniversary of Santos' death—decades too late, per Chief Eddie Garcia. At a memorial, Dallas' first Latino police chief said the city had still not healed "from the loss of Santos and the manner in which we lost Santos."
Officers Cain and Roy Arnold had responded to a gas station burglary after 2am. Arnold suspected the boys and entered their grandfather's home without a warrant. Cain later testified that Santos denied the theft; fingerprints at the scene didn't belong to either boy. Cain said he had checked that the chamber of the gun was empty prior to using it; per court records it was found with five live rounds inside. Cain was convicted of murder with malice but served only 2.5 years of a five-year sentence in a case that "deeply concerned" then-President Jimmy Carter, as he wrote to the boys' mother in 1978. The Justice Department declined to further prosecute Cain, who died in 2019 at age 75. "In order to heal, those who committed the wrong must be contrite," Garcia said, per the Dallas Morning News. "On behalf of the Dallas Police Department, as a father, I am sorry." He then embraced the boys' 77-year-old mother, Bessie Rodriguez. "I have to forgive to be forgiven," she said. (Read more murder stories.)