‘He Was Speaking Truth To Power’: Questions Remain In Case Of Chicano Activist Found Dead

UC Davis student Oscar Gomez died from blunt force trauma in 1994 and his manner of death was listed as undetermined.

Oscar Gomez poses in the radio studio at KDVS at UC Davis in 1992.

Chicano activist and UC Davis student Oscar Gomez died from blunt force trauma in 1994 and his manner of death was listed as undetermined.

Photo by: Natalie Parades via NPR

Natalie Parades via NPR

By: Aaron Rasmussen

A college activist involved in the Chicano rights movement in California died under mysterious circumstances, and almost 30 years later, some still wonder if foul play was involved.

On Nov. 17, 1994, the body of Oscar Gomez was found on a beach in Santa Barbara. Investigators at the time believed Gomez, a respected radio DJ and student leader, fell from a bluff not far from the University of California Santa Barbara campus.

In 2019, the University of California Davis honored Gomez with a posthumous degree, and KPCC reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez began to look into the incident, which he chronicled on the podcast Imperfect Paradise: The Forgotten Revolutionary.

During the early 1990s, anti-immigrant rhetoric was raging. “There was a lot of immigration from Central America and from Mexico into the United States, and this was largely because of the U.S.-funded Central American civil wars and this Mexican economic crisis that happened in the 1980s,” Guzman-Lopez explained to NPR.

Gomez, a Chicano student leader and host of the radio show La Onda Xicana, “was one of thousands of college students who resisted, who tried to return the dignity back to people who were targeted, who were being called less than human,” Guzman-Lopez said.

“He died the day after a protest,” Guzman-Lopez added, noting the coroner determined Gomez’s cause of death was listed as blunt force trauma to the head.

The manner of death, however, was left undetermined.

“The sheriff's department investigators could not find any witnesses who saw Oscar fall from the bluffs there in Santa Barbara, which can be up to, you know, 70, 80 feet tall,” Guzman-Lopez noted. “So that left a lot of questions open.”

In the course of his investigation, the reporter spoke with Gomez’s father and other close family members about the case.

“They believe that Oscar was murdered because of his political activism, because he was speaking truth to power, that he was broadcasting, really, within earshot of the state capital of California,” Guzman-Lopez said.

Next Up

Oklahoma Sixth Grader Saves Two People’s Lives In One Day

The 11-year-old student’s principal says Davyon Johnson is “well-liked by his peers and staff alike.”

Texas Mother Seeks Justice For Son Murdered In 2015 Near Prairie View A&M Campus

“Never did I think I’d have to prepare myself to live without him,” Anissa Norice says of losing her only child, LaDarius Valentine.

In 1989, Two Toddlers Vanished From The Same NYC Park Three Months Apart

Two-year-old Christopher "Choo Choo" Dansby and 19-month-old Shane Walker vanished without a trace. If you have any information about these children, please contact The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

In 2006, College Student Jesse Ross Walked Out Of A Hotel & Disappeared

The 19-year-old student reportedly visited Chicago for a Model U.N. event, walked out a back door, and disappeared.

Will Biggie Smalls' Murder Ever Be Solved?

“We kept pounding the doors on the same cold leads,” one former LAPD investigator has said of the more than two-decade-old case.

Matthew Weaver Disappeared While Hiking After Sending A Disturbing Snapchat Message

As loved ones search for the 21-year-old California man, they have asked the public to help find him.

An Internet Stalker Tormented More Than 50 Victims Before He Was Stopped

Jason Christopher Hughes's stalking spanned more than two decades and 50 victims before authorities were finally able to stop the Long Island man.

A Timeline Of Andy Dick’s Run-Ins With The Law

On May 11, the comedian-actor was arrested for felony sexual battery. Let’s take a look at his history with the law dating back to 1999.

Update: Devin Bond, 16, Reportedly Left Home With A Gun In 2017 & Hasn't Been Seen Since

The hunt continues for the Tennessee teen who allegedly snuck out in the middle of the night and disappeared.

Boy Hunting Lizards In Desert Discovers Polaroid Of Mutilated Woman

The mystery woman appeared to be stabbed and had a four-leaf clover tattoo on her chest.