Salinas police release videos of controversial shooting

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ByVic Lee KGO logo
Thursday, May 22, 2014
video shows two officers chasing Carlos Mehia

SALINAS, Calif. (KGO) -- Thursday the Salinas police chief released graphic videos of the fatal officer-involved shooting that happened Tuesday. The victim is a 44-year-old Hispanic man who police say was wielding garden shears in a threatening manner. The shooting has angered the Hispanic community.

Chief Kelly McMillin briefed reporters on the details of that shooting and said don't rush to judgment on whether or not the shooting was justified until his own investigation is over. The chief says he will be meeting with community leaders later and on Thursday night a community meeting was held.

The chief released two videos of the shooting that are extremely descriptive. They show Carlos Mehia being shot several times.

In a cellphone video you can see two officers, with guns drawn, follow Mehia as he walks down the street, holding a backpack and the garden shears. The officers are yelling commands, the officer's Taser malfunctions, they draw closer, one officer moves to the side, multiple shots are fired and Mehia falls to the sidewalk.

The other video is from a security camera with an overhead view. It's a closer shot of Mehia and the officer just before the shots are fired. It looks like Mehia is backing away, but McMillin says that's not so.

"He plants that foot and you see his heel come up and he'll turn back towards the officer," McMillin said.

McMillin also points out that Mehia wielded the shears in a threatening manner. McMillin also released audio tapes between the dispatcher and the two officers.

One 911 call is from a female resident at an apartment who reports there is an intruder, believed to be Mehia. On the Salinas police radio dispatch tapes you can hear a dispatcher say, "He also just exposed himself to her trying to get into the residence again, still unknown if she knows who he is. She is advising he is grabbing her dog and trying to choke it."

And finally you can hear the officers say, "Shots fired, one down, start EMS, start a bunch of units. We're having crowd control problems."

This is the third officer-involved shooting of a Hispanic man this past year.

Last night a rally to protest those shootings quickly went from emotional to violent. Demonstrators began throwing bottles and projectiles at officers and paramedics trying to help a man who had just been shot a few blocks away.

Chris Dolan is the attorney for the family of Osman Hernandez, one of the men killed. He sums up the mood in the community.

"I know for the Latino community, the fact that all three who have been shot were Latino, that's a big factor for them because they feel that they are being treated differently. They feel they are all being subject to being shot for being Latino," Dolan said.

Protester Ricardo Salinas said, "The man was obviously drunk. Why couldn't they knock him over? Why couldn't they baton him? Tazer him? If every officer has a Tazer, if one misfires the other one should be ready with the next one."

"Letting him walk around the corner onto a much more crowded street could just as easily have turned incredibly tragic," McMillin said.

City Councilmember Jose Castaneda says the problem is systemic. Mehia is actually the third man shot and killed by Salinas police in the past month.

"We're looking at a Citizen Review Board. I'm hoping they're open to that. I mentioned it to the Mayor as well," Castaneda said.

McMillin says his department will investigate the shooting and turn the findings over to the FBI and the Department of Justice for review.

Meanwhile, community activists are expecting thousands to march this Sunday in Salinas against police brutality.

Warning: This cellphone video posted to YouTube contains strong language and is graphic.

ABC7 News reporter Alan Wang contributed to this report.