Civil rights attorney asks Justice Dept. to look into Salinas shootings

After four men in Salinas were shot by police in the last four months, civil rights attorney John Burris is asking the Justice Department to investigate.
Civil rights attorney John Burris is asking the Justice Department to investigate a series of officer-involved shootings in Salinas, where those killed were all Hispanic men. He wants to see whether there is a pattern of racism among officers in the department.

Since March, four Hispanic men have been killed by police in Salinas. Burris calls it alarming and h e wants to know why it is happening. He also wants his answer to come from the Justice Department.

Burris is asking the special litigation unit of the Justice Department to investigate whether the four officer-involved shooting deaths reflect a pattern of excessive force against Latinos.

At a press conference, Burris said, "What we want here if nothing else, is that unjustified shootings stop. We want the killings to stop."

There have been large rallies and marches in the wake of the shootings; at least one turned violent.

That was after the shooting in May of a gardener, which was captured by both cellphone and security cameras. They show two officers with guns drawn following Carlos Mehia as he walks down the street, holding a backpack and garden shears. The officers yell commands. One of their Tasers malfunctions. As one officer moves to the side, multiple shots are fired and Mehia falls to the sidewalk.

Mehia's brother speaks no English, so community activist Margaret Bonetti spoke for the family.

Bonetti said, "The community is not trusting the local police department. We're here in San Francisco because we feel we'll get more justice here then we will out of Salinas."

The most recent fatal officer-involved shooting happened July 1. Frank Alvarado was killed, when police say he used his cellphone to simulate a gun. His son, Anthony Alvarado, held a picture of them together, which he says was the last time he saw him alive.

Anthony said, "I waited years for my father's release and Salinas P.D. took him from me. Salinas P.D. took the future we could have had together."

Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin told ABC7 News by phone that a federal probe would find no wrongdoing. He said, "I'm very proud of the record of the Salinas Police Department with respect to our commitment to social justice and equal treatment under the law."

Chief McMillin also told us, he plans to send the findings of his department's own investigation into the shootings to the Monterey County District Attorney and to the Department of Justice for their review, for their review, for the sake of full transparency.
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news officer involved shooting shooting police shooting hispanic racial profiling crime department of justice investigation Salinas San Francisco
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