SALINAS, Calif. (KION) Indigenous leaders from around California have released a list of demands related to a police shooting in Salinas that led to the death of 19-year-old Gerardo Martinez.
The group said it is calling for justice and called his death a murder because Martinez spoke Zapotec and had a limited understanding of Spanish. They argue that Martinez did not understand police commands to come out of his home and raise his arms.
"Gerardo was shot 3 times and murdered by Police Officer Mario Reyes, Salinas Police Department. Gerardo, unfortunately, will not live to see his dreams of working to start a family of his own and support his siblings to continue going to school to have other opportunities out of the fields," they wrote in a joint statement.
Below is the group's list of demands:
- The California Department of Justice should reopen the case and investigate to find out whether the local departments' capacity to interact with the Indigenous migrant population.
- An independent review of the Salinas Police Department's de-escalation practices.
- Training for officers to understand and communicate with a linguistically diverse population.
"Gerardo’s death occurs within a broader national epidemic of police killings of Black, Brown and Indigenous men who have been taken too soon by a system built on criminalizing them on sight. Understanding that victims of police violence are often criminalized in official narratives, we remain critical of statements that represent Gerardo as dangerous and a threat to the public, as he was killed prior to being charged with any crime and will never have the opportunity for due process in a court of law," they wrote in the statement.
The group is also calling for the public to help cover the cost of repatriating Martinez to Oaxaca, Mexico.
In a statement, the City of Salinas said officer-involved shootings are closely scrutinized and investigated. The Monterey County District Attorney's Office will conduct a criminal investigation into the shooting while the Salinas Police Department conducts an administrative investigation into the officers' actions to make sure they followed policies, procedures and training.
The DA's Office said officers responded to a 911 call at around 8 p.m. from someone saying their neighbor on Smith Street, who they said was extremely drunk, had pointed a black handgun at him. The caller said the gun might have been a BB gun because it looked too small to him, but he was not sure. He also told dispatchers that the man with the gun had attacked them before and vandalized property.
In addition to being drunk, the caller said he believed his neighbor was on meth.
When officers arrived, Officer Mario Reyes positioned himself behind the engine block of his patrol car with his rifle about 50 feet from the suspect's home, according to the DA's Office.
Officers tried to get a phone number for the suspect, identified as 19-year-old Gerardo Martinez, so they could talk over the phone, but they were unable to get one. They used a drone for overhead surveillance.
Martinez walked partially out of the side door of his home at around 8:30 p.m., according to the DA's Office, and officers told him in Spanish to come out with his hands up. While they were issuing commands, he entered and exited the side door several times.
At one point, Martinez got what appeared to be a handgun from inside the home and can be seen in drone video pointing it. The DA's Office said he pointed it at Officer Reyes, prompting Reyes to fire three rounds from his rifle. At least one round hit Martinez in the torso, and he died of his injuries.
When officers entered the home, they said they found a real-looking black BB gun next to Martinez.
“It wasn’t a real gun, they should’ve used a taser gun or shot him in a place where it wouldn’t kill him," said Martinez's mother, Paulina Chavez, when she spoke to KION. "They shouldn’t have killed him.”
“If they see a firearm, they should investigate if it's even real," said Martinez's aunt.
The DA's Office said the California Department of Justice decided not to investigate this shooting because Martinez was armed, according to their interpretation of the law. Under the statute, a deadly weapon includes any loaded weapon that could cause death or serious injury if discharged, and a BB gun falls within that definition.
Read the full statement released by Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO),
Comunidades Indígenas en Liderazgo (CIELO), Mixteco/Indígena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), Movimiento Cultural de la Unión Indígena (MCUI) and Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales (FIOB) below.