Police Protest

A woman protesting in front of Salinas City Hall on Tuesday evening holds a signs condemning recent police action.

Two Salinas Police officers followed an unidentified man for at least one minute, guns drawn, from a residential neighborhood to the corner of Del Monte Avenue and Sanborn Avenue. He was walking and running away from the officers, occasionally turning his head back toward them. Just before the entrance of Sanborn Plaza market on the corner of the intersection, the man slowed and turned to the officers. He was shot immediately, at least five times, and dropped to the pavement.

That was all captured on video, filmed by a witness Tuesday afternoon.

As the man lay unmoving on the sidewalk, a woman can be heard screaming at the officers as they handcuffed him. “Why the f**k did you guys shoot him!” she screams. “If we want to die, we’ll f**kin’ call you guys!”

Within a few hours, about 60 people had assembled in protest on the City Hall lawn. The mix of community activists from different groups and causes had already planned to show up, even before the shooting on Sanborn that afternoon. Some gathered around iPhones, watching the video footage of the shooting.

Family members of farmworker Osman Hernandez, who was shot and killed by Salinas Police officers in the Mi Tierra parking lot on May 9, were there. Hernandez was shot by two officers after waving around a lettuce knife in the crowded parking lot; police say he failed to respond to their commands to drop the knife.

“We want to know what happened,” says Yanira Guardado, Hernandez’ cousin. “We don’t think the police are serving this community.”

It was Guardado's first time at City Hall. She and other family members rallied around posters with grainy photos of Hernandez, showed him dead in the parking lot, with two officers standing on either side of his body. 

A therapist and activist with the group MILPA (Motivating Individuals for Leadership in Public Advancement), Shi Cota, was making posters with Hernandez' relatives that said, "No more police brutality" in English and Spanish.

She says she got involved when old clients started calling her up for counseling after witnessing the deadly encounter outside of Mi Tierra. "They saw something horrendous and horrible," Cota says. 

Understanding that it's horrible for police officers involved as well, it's customary for officers to be placed on administrative leave pending investigations of officer-involved shootings. The three officers involved in the Hernandez shooting were cleared to return to duty on May 15.

City Councilman Jose Castañeda left the City Council meeting to address Juardado and other family members, urging them to call the Salvadoran Consulate in San Francisco to request an investigation. (Hernandez was Salvadoran.) 

"The city likes to criminalize our community, criminalize our youth," says community activist Ana Barrera, a teacher at Everett Alvarez High School. "It's institutional racism." 

Community activists were ready to talk about the afternoon’s shooting, but city officials were not. As he left the City Council meeting, Police Chief Kelly McMillin said, “I’m not prepared to comment on anything that happened today. I understand there’s a lot of emotion.”

Residents peppered him with questions as he sipped a can of Diet Coke in the hallway outside the City Council meeting. As McMillin guided one woman across the lawn to the police station to file a citizen complaint on an unrelated case, the crowd began chanting, “Shame on you.”

Community organizers are planning a May 25 march to emphasize their four-point request to City Council. They’re calling for the creation of a civilian committee to respond to citizen complaints against the police; a federal investigation into Salinas PD, including officer-involved shootings over the past three years; a review of police training materials, open to the public; and that the officers involved in Tuesday’s shooting remain on administrative leave until a federal investigation is complete.

The intersection where Tuesday’s shooting occurred remained cordoned off six hours later, and several neighbors stood outside their homes watching the police officers behind the tape.

Minerea Jarquin, who lives just around the corner from the site of the shooting, was in her front yard when it occurred. “He used the gun five times,” she says. “I’m so scared, I go inside my house and close all the doors and windows. I’m so very scared.”

A resident just a few doors down from Jarquin was more angry than afraid: “It’s a crime scene. Their crime.”

 

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Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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