He’s traveled with gun, guitar and paddle

Community Portrait
By: Story and photo Michael Kirby
-A +A
Carlos de la Fuente wore many hats during his 45-year career in the criminal justice system. Serving mostly in Los Angeles County, he worked everything from an inner-city patrol beat to municipal court commissioner. De la Fuente started in 1959 as a beat cop in East Los Angeles at age 21. He soon advanced to working narcotics and homicide investigation, participating in high-profile cases including the infamous Charles Manson murders that rocked Southern California in 1969. “We were investigating another murder case and were at the Spahn Ranch, an abandoned movie set where the Manson family lived, and we questioned Charles Manson just after the murders in the course of our investigation,” he recalled. De la Fuente was honored with an Award of Valor for a daring off-duty arrest of a murder suspect in 1966. His 11-year career with the sheriff’s office ended with de la Fuente’s decision to finish his college education. Graduating from law school, de la Fuente took a job with Los Angeles County as a public defender working for individuals accused of crimes and unable to afford an attorney. De la Fuente also served as an L.A. city attorney hearing officer, an L.A. County criminal prosecutor, L.A. County public defender, and then was appointed to the Whittier and East Los Angeles Municipal Courts as a commissioner. He finished his career with a move north to Placer County in 1994, establishing a private law practice in Sacramento. During his career de la Fuente was always active politically and involved in peace and environmental causes. During his job as a court commissioner in 1984, de la Fuente left the bench to do pro bono work. “I gave six months’ notice and resigned, working for a year without pay at the Inner City Law Center in Los Angeles’ skid row area, helping the homeless,” he said. “I had always wanted to do service.” In 1986 the Great Peace March was organized to draw attention to the global issue of nuclear proliferation and 1,200 marchers left Los Angeles on a 3,700-mile march to Washington, D.C. for global nuclear disarmament. De la Fuente joined the nine-month endeavor on the Fourth of July in Nebraska and finished the march to Washington. After the march, de la Fuente helped organize a similar march in the Soviet Union in 1987. “As I marched, I kept thinking there are two sides to every issue,” he said. Two-hundred Americans and 200 Soviets marched 400 miles from Leningrad to Moscow. “On July Fourth 1987 we walked past the Kremlin with American flags and into Moscow Stadium greeted by 10,000 people,” de la Fuente said. A peace concert followed featuring Santana, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, the Doobie Brothers and talented Soviet artists. In 2004, at age 66 and retired, de la Fuente, took on another cause, solo this time, paddling in an ocean kayak from Santa Barbara to Costa Rica, calling attention to the degradation of the environment. For three months de la Fuente paddled the coastline by day and slept on deserted beaches at night in his one-man quest to help the environment. Experiencing severe injury to his hands from rowing, de la Fuente was forced to pull off his solo endeavor in La Paz, Mexico, ending his 1,000-mile odyssey by paddling up to the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, in the ocean off the Mexican coast. An accomplished classical guitarist, de la Fuente is still quietly doing his part, playing fundraisers, volunteering his time. He lives in Newcastle off Auburn Folsom Road with his wife, Mariana, whom he met on the Great Peace March. He grows most of their food, raises pheasants and chickens, and plays his guitar.