Salinas Police Release Video of Controversial Officer-Involved Shooting

By Jonah Lustig

May 23, 2014 3:26pm

Police have released videos of a controversial shooting that has caused an uproar in a California community after cell phone footage of the incident was posted to YouTube earlier this week.

The Salinas Police Department published two videos on Thursday, one of the cell phone footage and another from an overhead surveillance camera, which show the deadly shooting of 44-year-old Carlos Mejia by police officers on Tuesday.

Police said Mejia was threatening a woman with garden shears, and refused to comply with officers when they asked him to drop the shears.

“The officers followed Mr. Mejia, continuing to order him to drop the weapon. As he neared the corner of Del Monte and Sanborn, he planted a foot, turned, and lunged at the nearest officer, with the shears raised,” police said in a statement Thursday.

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Carlos Mejia, 44, was fatally shot by Salinas police on May 20, 2014, in Salinas, Calif. Police allege he was threatening them with garden shears. (Credit: KGO)

Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin told ABC News today that he believes the second overhead view provides more context to the incident.

“Much of the video out there is bad, bad quality,” he said, referring to the cell phone video. “At the end, you don’t actually see the moment of the shooting.”

The release of the videos follows a week of protests and unrest in Salinas. The incident marks the third officer-involved shooting of the year, and all three people who were shot have been Hispanic.

The tensions boiled over on Wednesday, when a large crowd gathered near the scene of the latest incident to demonstrate what protesters said was police brutality. Some demonstrators threw bottles and other objects at police, according to ABC San Francisco affiliate KGO.

Protester Ricardo Salinas questioned the actions of police in the Tuesday shooting.

“The man was obviously drunk. Why couldn’t they knock him over? Why couldn’t they baton him? If every officer has a Taser, if one misfires the other should be ready with the next one,” he told KGO, referring to the fact that one officer’s Taser apparently malfunctions in the cell phone video.

Mejia’s family could not be reached by ABC News for comment.

A review of the incident will be sent to a county commission and the FBI, McMillin said.

In the meantime, while McMillin acknowledged “there is work to be done” in police-community relations, he expressed hope that upcoming meetings and reviews would strengthen bonds between law enforcement and the community.

 

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