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Charles Landeros' Ex-Wife Speaks Out Against Controversial Mural

Brian Bull

A new mural in downtown Eugene is upsetting people, including the ex-wife of an activist shot and killed by police last year. 

Shayla Landeros says she’s seen the “Fibers of History” mural at 744 West Park Street, and feels that her late ex-husband, Charles Landeros, should not be on it.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Eugene Police officers outside the Cascade Middle School on January 11, 2019. Charles Landeros was shot dead after pulling a gun on two officers outside the building.

“I was very upset. I found it very, very disrespectful,” she says.

The couple was in a custody dispute over their daughter when Charles enrolled the girl at Cascade Middle School in January 2019.  Shayla Landeros was not told of the action, and her husband also did not give school officials any of her parental information.

“(Charles) had come and picked her up from my house on a Sunday, and against the court order didn’t tell me where she was, and I’d been searching for her,” Shayla told KLCC.

Shayla would find out several days later where the girl was, and prepared to take her back home and to her former school.  She was at Cascade Middle School when two police officers and her ex, Charles, got into a confrontation outside the main office. As the officers escorted Charles out of the building, a scuffle broke out and Charles pulled out a 9mm handgun while wrestling with officer Aaron Johns.  EPD bodycam footage shows Charles fired off two rounds before another officer, Steve Timm, fired back.  The bullet fatally struck Charles’ head. All of this happened while Landeros’ daughter and two other witnesses watched.

Credit Lane County DA/EPD
EPD bodycam footage shows Charles Landeros (right) with Officer Aaron Johns (left) moments before a scuffle would break out, ending in an exchange of gunfire that would lead to Landeros' death.

The DA’s office would later deem the shooting justified, given the threat Charles Landeros presented by taking a handgun and several magazines of ammunition to the school, as well as their actions.

While Shayla says Charles was often a “great guy”, she doesn’t see her ex-husband as a hero as some do in the activist community.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
The image of Charles Landeros with a bullhorn appears on the new mural in the upper left corner.

“In my opinion…he blatantly tried to kill a police officer. That’s not a hero. That’s an attempted murderer.

"And…this part has taken me a lot longer to accept, was when the school had called and he had come down here…when he left his house that day, he knew that I was there, and he came not just with his gun but all this extra ammunition,” Shayla recalls.  

“I had to accept that any bullet he may have intended on using that day weren’t initially meant for a police officer. And I just assume that he’d take his daughter at any cost.  And that cost could’ve been me, it could’ve been the school officials, anybody who got in his way of taking our daughter that day was possibly a victim.”

Charles Landeros was well known in several activist circles around Eugene.  They identified as transgender and were of Mexican and Filipino descent. Landeros sometimes clashed with University of Oregon officials and in 2017 led a demonstration that canceled U of O president Mike Schill’s “State of the University” address. 

An Army veteran who’d been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, Landeros did firearms training for a group he started called Community Armed Self-Defense.  Its purpose was to help people of color and members of the LGBTQ community protect themselves.

Both the EPD Chief and head of the Eugene Police Union have joined Shayla Landeros’ condemnation of including the late activist on the new mural, calling it “divisive.”    

Laura Hammond of the City of Eugene, and Stacey Ray, Interim Executive Director of the Lane Arts Council, say the “Fibers of History” mural was created through a new process incorporating input from Latinx community members into its design. A committee of Latinx and Indigenous community members worked with artist Rodolfo Redstone Sema on its creation, but add that their perspectives “do not necessarily represent the perspective of our broader Latin American immigrant communities.”

Both Hammond and Ray say the mural reflects themes drawing a connection between Indigenous peoples of the Willamette Valley to the Indigenous peoples of California and Latin America.

“Each element is a symbol, including a conch shell with music pouring out of it to celebrate the Afro Latinx cultures, patterns from the baskets used by the Indigenous people of the region, a Cala lily and a Camas to represent the beauty of local and Latinx Indigenous peoples, and an eagle to represent power.”

As to the portion of the mural showing Charlie Landeros as a protester with a megaphone, the representatives say it’s intended to “symbolize and recognize local Latinx activism.”

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
A police officer is located diagonally and below Landeros' image. Representatives of the City of Eugene and Lane Arts Council say the figure isn't connected to the slain activist.

Another element sparking concern is that of a police officer positioned diagonally from Landeros. Given the circumstances of Landeros’ death, some have questioned the appropriateness of pairing the slain activist with that of law enforcement.

“The figure in blue does not represent a City of Eugene police officer but rather broader law enforcement entities,” continues an explanation from the City of Eugene and the Lane Arts Council. “He is shaking an ear of corn that represents diverse Indigenous and Latin American immigrant communities. The intention of the symbol is to shed light on the systematic barriers faced by our Latin American immigrant communities.

“This figure is not directly related to the image of Charlie Landeros.”

The Lane Arts Council allocated $2,000 for the artist's stipend. The City provided the remaining $500 of the stipend, as well as “logistical support, materials, and supplies.”    

It remains unclear just how and when the image of Charles Landeros was incorporated into the final design, and if all committee members were unanimous in the decision.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Cascade Middle School students are released early on January 11, 2019 to be reunited with their parents and guardians after police shot Charles Landeros outside the main building.

While city officials acknowledge the concerns and challenges of the art, they haven’t said yet whether a new mural will be done, or if Landeros or the police officer will be removed from it.

“A reflective conversation has begun between the community members who gave inspiration for this mural, the artist, the City, and Lane Arts Council to help inform next steps in light of the community’s response,” concludes an emailed statement to KLCC.  

“We will continue to work together to consider the diversity of perspectives and determine how best to move forward together.”

Shayla Landeros feels that there are other suitable and less painful figures from local transgender and Latinx communities that could be incorporated into the mural.  She says it’s important to remember the pain and fear caused by her ex-husband’s actions the day of January 11, 2019.

“Because that day opened a lot of trauma for me and the kids,” she says.  “And seeing that mural just brought us back to that. My kids have gotten to a place where things have been calmer and more mellow, we were starting to put this all behind us. 

“This resparked their trauma, which is hard for me as a mom to have to cope with and deal with their traumas, while I’m trying to deal with my own at the same time.”

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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