FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --A federal jury said Sanger police officers did not use excessive force when they shot and killed Charles Salinas. The verdict came down Thursday nearly four years after the deadly confrontation.
There was a lot to think about. The jury had to listen to two weeks of testimony and watch cell phone video to figure out whether the officers handled the situation properly. The day Salinas called police he said he was armed, drunk, and ready to die. This led to a confrontation and the last 12 seconds of it were recored by a cell phone.
Salinas was hit 11 times after, police said, he reached for his waistband. But there was no gun, no weapon at all on him. His family filed a lawsuit claiming excessive force. The cellphone video was key in the case, but only one piece of the bigger picture according to Dale Allen Jr. who represented the officers in court. "Videos don't lie, but, they don't incorporate the whole truth because they don't incorporate what the officers knew-- what the officers were acting upon."
He said Salinas was mentally ill. A retired Marine in need of help, but his actions were aggressive and the officers made a split second decision.
The jury listened to two weeks of testimony from several other witnesses and the officers who fired their guns. "The officers were working off a wealth of information, that, under their training, they faced a lethal threat and had to confront it with lethal force," said Allen.
In the end the jury ruled out excessive force and negligence. Still, Allen said a problem persists-- issues of mental health and how officers deal with it in the streets. "Officers have to protect themselves and others, and they can not assume someone who says they have a gun, isn't telling the truth."
We did talk with family briefly but they weren't ready to talk about the case. From here, they could file a motion for a new trial or an appeal.