In the wake of four fatal officer-involved shootings in Salinas this past year, Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin gave a talk to Hartnell Community College students called, "Ferguson Could Have Been Salinas, Here's Why it Wasn't."

The October talk fell on the same day protesters gathered outside Salinas Police headquarters calling for the resignations of McMillin and Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter—a retired SPD detective—as part of a national movement called the National Day Against Police Brutality.

In July, Salinas police shot and killed Carlos Mejia, a day laborer who had allegedly broken into a backyard, exposed himself to a female resident of a home and tried to attach the homeowner’s dog. Mejia was carrying garden shears when he was shot after a meandering walk through East Salinas. His shooting was captured on cell phone camera, and by security cameras at a local business.

The shooting prompted a single night of chaotic protests in which a police car was destroyed and an officer was hit in the head by a bottle thrown from a crowd. That officer had stopped to try to aid a shooting victim; the shooting was apparently unrelated to that protest, though, and the victim, 23-year-old Constantino Garcia, who had just moved to Salinas to seek work in the fields, died shortly after at a local hospital. Nobody has been arrested

Also in July, just weeks after the Mejia shooting, Salinas police shot and killed Frank Alvarado in what’s been described as a “suicide by cop.”

Alvarado, an East Salinas resident, had served 10 years in prison for attempted murder and became a peace activist on his release. In an interview in May, Alvarado told the Weekly "You can either build yourself a harness and pull yourself out of a hole, or you can hang yourself," when asked about his post-prison struggles. "My mom's asked, 'What's it going to take for you to change?' I said, 'I need to leave this place.'"

The first officer-involved shooting of the year in Salinas was on March 20 when 42-year-old Angel Ruiz, was killed by Salinas police officers in front of Wingstop on Constitution Boulevard after brandishing a weapon—which turned out to be an Airsoft pellet gun–in the parking lot. Ruiz was suspected in at least three crimes, including a hit-and-run accident involving a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer and armed robberies in Salinas on the day he was killed.

In early May, Salinas police shot and killed 26-year-old Osman Hernandez in the parking lot of Mi Pueblo after reached for a lettuce knife. He had been knocked to the ground after being shot with a taser twice and according to police, never responded to repeated commands to turn over onto his belly. As the officers approached, Hernandez puckered his lips at one, as if to blow a kiss, then said in Spanish, "Please forgive me." He then lifted his shirt and reached for a lettuce knife in his waistband. Two officers then fired shots, killing Hernandez.

On March 20, Monterey County Sheriff’s Deputies shot and killed a man near Big Sur. Deputies were looking for a pickup truck that had been spotted just off Highway 1 on Palo Colorado Canyon Road, which had been connected to some recent local felonies. Deputies attempted to stop the truck, which contained a man and a woman, but the driver refused to stop and kept driving. After about half a mile, the driver turned the truck around tried to drive back out toward Highway 1; the truck rammed deputy’s car. The man and the woman, one of whom was armed, tried to run.  At least two deputies shot at the man and woman, killing the man.

Most recently, on November 22, in Seaside, a police officer shot and killed 27-year-old Nestor Cruz-Ciriaco after he grabbed a 2-foot machete and a toddler when police arrived to the 160 block of Laguna Street during a domestic violence call.

Staff photojournalist at Monterey County Weekly.

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