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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Salinas Police Killings Questioned

SAN JOSE (CN) - Salinas police have killed four Hispanic men in five months, one man's family claims in Federal Court.

Carlos Mejia-Gomez, 44, was killed by Salinas police on May 20, his family claims in the Dec. 23 lawsuit against the city and police Officers Danny Warner and Josh Lynd.

Mejia-Gomez's death was the third in a string of officer-involved shootings: Angel Ruiz was killed on March 20, Osman Hernandez on May 9, and Frank Alvarado on July 7, according to the complaint.

The Mejia family claims the deaths came under "questionable circumstances," and that video footage and eyewitness accounts contradict the officers' justifications for using deadly force against the four men.

Police said Mejia broke into a house, exposed himself to a woman and tried to choke her dog, according to the Monterey County Weekly.

But his family claims that Mejia was going door to door looking for work as a gardener. When officers confronted him, he walked away. They fired Tasers at him and drew their weapons when he continued to walk. Mejia stopped 5 to 10 feet away and faced police, holding a backpack and gardening shears. When he made a "slight movement," officers fired, the family says. He died on the scene.

"The decedent's body lay on the street uncovered for several hours in plain view, intimidating witnesses and the community alike," the complaint states.

On the day of Mejia's death there was a protest planned at Salinas City Hall for the police shooting of Hernandez earlier that month, according to the Monterey County Weekly.

The Mejia family claims the city "has long allowed its citizens ... to be abused by police officers," and that its police policy is "rooted in an entrenched posture of deliberate indifference" to Latinos.

They seek punitive damages for wrongful death, gross negligence, civil rights violations and other claims.

They are represented by John Burris, of Oakland.

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