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Salinas Unrest Erupts After Latest in Series of Police Shootings

| May 22, 2014
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Note: Video depicts shooting and contains explicit language.

A day of protest over recent police shootings in the Monterey County city of Salinas culminated Wednesday night with a crowd of residents throwing rocks and bottles at officers — one of whom was struck in the head while attempting to perform CPR on a shooting victim. That officer was reportedly in stable condition Thursday with non-life-threatening injuries.

The confrontation between city residents and officers also damaged several police vehicles. It occurred near the scene of a Tuesday afternoon shooting, seen in the video above, in which two officers followed a man who police say was carrying a large pair of garden shears. Police say officers shot the man after he lunged at them. An analysis of the video by TV station KSBW shows the final moments of the incident and suggests one of the officers was moving in on the unidentified man from behind and that the man turned toward the officer immediately before shots are heard.

It was the Salinas Police Department’s third fatal officer-involved shooting this year and the second this month, following a deadly incident in a grocery store parking lot 11 days earlier. In that case, a man named Osman Hernandez was shot with a Taser, and then shot and killed after police say he “revealed” a lettuce-cutting knife in his waistband. San Francisco civil rights and personal injury attorney Christopher Dolan has filed a claim against the city for the Hernandez shooting, the first step toward a possible lawsuit.

The department has scheduled a Thursday afternoon press conference to discuss this week’s shooting. Before video of the incident went viral, the Salinas Californian reported this police account of the shooting:

Officers responded about noon Tuesday to a home on the 700 block of Elkington Avenue when a woman reported a man had jumped her backyard fence and attempted to attack her dog with scissors, Maiorana said.

When officers encountered the man at the intersection of Sanborn Road and Del Monte Avenue, outside Delicia’s Bakery, he made no attempt to hide the shears, Maiorana said.

Attempts at hailing the man in English and Spanish were unsuccessful, Maiorana said. Officers then unsuccessfully deployed a Taser as the man began waving the gardening shears in the air, he said.

“This individual pulled the gardening shears and actually attempted to attack the officers with the gardening shears,” Maiorana said. “In response, the officers, fearing for their personal safety, shot this individual, and this individual is now deceased.”

Both officers involved fired and will be placed on paid administrative leave, per policy, Maiorana said. He wouldn’t identify the officers except to say both are veterans of the force with “many, many years” under their belts.

Investigators are currently poring over video evidence and witness statements, Maiorana said. The video evidence will most likely not be publicized, he added.

However, “There’s no doubt about what happened,” he said.

Hours after the shooting, residents crowded into a meeting of the Salinas City Council, many demanding a federal investigation of the Salinas Police Department.

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Category: Law and Justice, News

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About the Author ()

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.
  • Orwell

    The phrase “Those who seek power are rarely fit to wield it” is usually applied to politicians, but I think it’s relevant here as well. Since the officers involved were apparently highly experienced veterans, should we then assume it was mental deficiency–rather than ignorance of the laws they were breaking–that led to this reprehensible murder?