Gerardo Martinez

Just seconds before he was shot and killed by Salinas police, 19-year-old Gerardo Martinez stepped through the door of the house he shared with his parents, holding what appeared to be a handgun. 

In the last minutes of his life, Gerardo Martinez opened the door to the small Salinas house in the 100 block of Smith Street that he shared with his parents. He stepped back inside and closed the door, then stepped outside a second time before retreating inside.

The door opened a third time, as Martinez took a drink from a can. He stepped back inside, put the can down, and stepped through the door again, this time appearing to hold a handgun. 

The door closes and opens one more time, and as the Salinas Police drone that's recording from above moves up and away from the scene, Martinez steps through the door a fourth and final time; as he raises the weapon in his hand and looks around, Police Officer Mario Reyes shot him at least once in the chest. 

He drops to the floor in the entryway, his arms flailing, before he stops moving.

The footage and more information about the Friday night police shooting that led to Martinez's death were released after 5pm Monday, July 19 by the Monterey County District Attorney's Office.

And while they show Martinez's final moments, they don't answer the question of whether or not police knew that Martinez didn't understand commands being issued to him in Spanish—he spoke Zapotec, an indigenous language most prominently associated with the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. 

The video doesn't have audio. But according to accounts from neighbors, they told police Martinez didn't understand them.

"The neighbors were trying to avoid this happening. They kept saying 'don't shoot him, don't shoot him, he doesn't understand,'" says Cesar Lara, policy and program coordinator for the social justice organization MILPA. MILPA is assisting the family with arrangements for a funeral; Lara says Martinez's parents are farm laborers and also don't speak much Spanish.

It was a neighbor's phone call that led to the fatal encounter. Per the press release issued by District Attorney Jeanine Pacioni, a neighbor called 911 just after 8pm on Friday, July 16 to report Martinez "was extremely drunk" and "had pointed a black handgun at him about five minutes before his call."

"When the 911 operator asked the caller what his neighbor was doing with the gun, he said, 'He pointed it at us and he's really drunk right now…I need an officer here ASAP," the press release states.

The caller also stated the handgun might be a BB gun, "but who knows," the caller stated, according to the press release. Martinez, the caller said, had brandished a weapon at neighbors before, vandalized their property and appeared to be under the influence of drugs as well as alcohol.

As police amassed at the scene, Reyes, identified by name in the District Attorney's press release, positioned himself with his rifle behind the engine block of his patrol car, about 50 feet from Martinez's home. Police failed to reach him by phone.

When Martinez stepped through the door the final time and raised the weapon, Reyes shot three times, striking Martinez at least once. 

The weapon retrieved at the scene was a BB gun. Martinez was 19 years old. 

The Weekly has sent a Public Records Act request to the city of Salinas, asking for the body-worn camera footage from the incident, as well as the names of the officers involved in the shooting. 

Nobody was available after the press release was sent to answer questions about the possible language barrier, or if police had called a Zapotec interpreter to the scene. 

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