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‘He felt a responsibility’

Some of the passion behind councilman’s remarks may stem from the death of a protege

Posted: January 30, 2010 8:39 p.m.
Updated: January 31, 2010 4:55 a.m.

David March, pictured above, was shot and killed in 2002 by an illegal immigrant who immediately fled to his native Mexico. Santa Clarita City Councilman Bob Kellar had been a mentor to March.

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It was the early 1990s when retired Los Angeles police officer Bob Kellar began coaching a young man on how to apply successfully for a job as a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy.

Kellar didn't help every wanna-be cop, he said. But David March showed a lot of promise.

"It was clear to me that his heart was in the area of wanting to genuinely go out and do good things for good people," Kellar said. "This young man was there for all the right reasons."

Kellar was successful with his young protege.

So when David March was gunned down during a traffic stop in 2002 by an illegal immigrant who immediately fled to his native Mexico, the Santa Clarita City Council member took it hard.

"When Dave was killed, Bob was just devastated," said John March, father of David March and a resident of Valencia. "He felt a responsibility.

"He said to me, he said, ‘You know, I was helping him. How do you feel about that?'

"I said, ‘Bob, you helped him reach his dream. He was doing what he always wanted to do. And you helped him get there.'"

March's death outraged the community and led to the founding of the Santa Clarita Valley Independent Minutemen, which named its first camp after David March.

It was at a Minutemen rally against illegal immigration earlier this month that Kellar made comments that have thrust him into the national spotlight.

"Right here, a moment ago, I mentioned what Teddy Roosevelt said, and he was right on: ‘One flag, one language,'" Kellar said at the rally.
"You know, the only thing I heard back from a couple of people is: ‘Bob, you sound like a racist.

"I said, ‘That's good. If that's what you think I am because I happen to believe in America, I'm a proud racist. You're darn right, I am.'"


March's death
In an interview last week, Kellar downplayed the significance of March's death in shaping his views on illegal immigration.

"Does this bother me - do I find it unacceptable? Absolutely," Kellar said.

"But there are so many issues with immigration, I don't need to come to this one. There are 50 others that I find totally unacceptable."

Kellar recalled the day David March called to thank him for the coaching he provided. March had passed the test and would finally become a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy.

"Always, he had a smile on his face," Kellar said. "You could tell he liked people. He absolutely liked people."

Then came April 29, 2002.

During a routine traffic stop in Irwindale, Armando Jose Arroyo Garcia shot March several times, killing the 33-year-old.

"I was just sick," Kellar said. "I was almost mad at myself for doing a good enough job (mentoring him) that he had gotten into law enforcement."

John March said the emotional toll on Kellar became apparent at a recent visit to the councilman's home.

"We walked by a chair, and he said, ‘That's where Dave used to sit when I was coaching him,'" John March said. "He broke down into tears at the memory of it."

Killer captured
Kellar organized local rallies to pressure the government to have Garcia extradited, and he traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby White House staff with the same goal.

But Garcia remained free in Mexico for four years after March's death.

A 2001 Mexican Supreme Court decision barred extradition of Mexicans to other countries if they faced the possibility of life sentences.

In 2005 the Supreme Court overturned that decision, clearing the way for Garcia - and others accused of murder in the United States - to be extradited.

The Mexican government extradited him after securing a promise from Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley that Garcia would not be put to death.

Garcia pleaded guilty to murdering March in 2007 and is serving a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.

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