Court rules the names of officers involved in shootings are public
June 1, 2014
The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that in most cases police departments must divulge the names of officers involved in on-duty shootings. [KXBW]
In the past, departments claimed officer safety as a reason for withholding names. In a 6-1 decision, the court ruled that a public records act request by the Los Angeles Times that sought the names of two Long Beach police officers involved in the 2010 fatal shooting of a man holding a garden hose was valid.
In Salinas, which has a police department with a policy of not releasing the names of officers involved in shootings, there have been three officer fatalities this year. Two have resulted in claims against the department.
In each case, Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillinhas said the officers were justified because their lives were in danger.
On March 20, officers shot and killed Angel Ruiz, who was armed with an Air soft pellet gun outside a restaurant on Constitution Boulevard.
On May 9, Osman Hernandez was swinging a lettuce knife around in the air when police shot him in the head outside a busy shopping center on East Alisal Street. Police said Hernandez, who worked as a lettuce cutter for Salinas Valley Farms, failed to obey their commands.
On May 20, Carlos Mejia, 44, of Salinas, was armed with gardening shears when he was followed by police down North Sanborn Road and died in front of several witnesses, including one witness who was recording with a camera. Police said he had threatened to kill a woman and they believed he could harm bystanders.
After a video of the May 20 shooting was placed on YouTube, a small riot and protest broke out near the site of Mejia’s death. Constantino Garcia, 23, a bystander, was fatally shot in the melee. A rioter then threw a bottle at an officer attempting to give Garcia CPR, injuring the officer.