Monterey County

Attorney calls for federal investigation of Salinas officer-involved shootings

Two families claim discrimination against Salinas PD

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - A prominent civil rights attorney is calling for a federal investigation into the recent officer-involved shootings in Salinas.

John Burris held a press conference Tuesday in San Francisco to call on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to look into the four officer-involved shootings in Salinas this year to evaluate whether they reflect a pattern of discrimination.

Burris has developed a reputation for representing families and victims in alleged police brutality cases - perhaps most famously, representing Rodney King in his civil suit against the Los Angeles Police Department.

Earlier this year, Burris filed a suit on behalf of the family of Carlos Mejia, who was shot and killed in May after he allegedly tried to break into a woman's home. Mejia was holding a large pair of garden shears, which police said he was brandishing at them. After a stun gun failed to subdue Mejia, officers eventually fatally shot him.

Burris says he has also been obtained by the family of Frank Alvarado, who was shot and killed by Salinas police earlier this month after his family called 911 to report that he was trying to burn down a relative's home.

"During the last four months there have been four shooting deaths of Latino men by Salinas police officers," Burris said. "The number of deadly force shootings in this time period is alarming and has caused social upheaval, dissension and fear in the community, including among some public officials."

Burris said he believes a thorough federal investigation is warranted, and he's written letters to Holder as well as Jonathan Smith, Chief of the Special Litigation section of the Department of Justice. 

The Monterey County District Attorney's Office is still reviewing these cases.

"He was lost but he'll never be forgotten and my brother needs justice," said Angelica Garza, Alvarado's sister.

Her father shares that sentiment.

"It sounds like 'kill now, ask questions later," Jose Frank Alvarado said of the shootings.

Alvarado's mother, however, disagrees with her husband and daughter. She believes her son dared the officers to kill him so he wouldn't have to go back to jail.

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