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No charges will be filed against CHP officers who shot man 16 times in Oakland

on April 4, 2022

Three California Highway Patrol officers involved in killing Erik Salgado during an arrest in 2020 will not face criminal charges, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley reported Monday, nearly two years after Salgado was shot 16 times and died on an East Oakland street.

O’Malley said that while questions remain about the force used against Salgado, there wasn’t enough evidence or witnesses to charge the officers. She said that if evidence or witnesses come forth, the case could be reopened.

“The legal threshold is not whether the officer was in imminent danger,” the district attorney said in her report, “but whether the officer reasonably believed the he or she or others were in imminent danger.”

Salgado was in a car when he was shot around 10:45 p.m. on June 6, 2020, on Cherry Street near 96th Avenue. His female passenger was shot three times and survived her injuries.

According to the district attorney’s report, dated March 28, the Highway Patrol officers took notice of the red Dodge Challenger Hellcat Salgado was driving because earlier that week, looters had stolen more then 70 vehicles from a San Leandro Dodge dealership. The officers ran the plate on the car and found that it was stolen, the report says. One of the officers said the car was proceeding on the wrong side of the street and ran a red light.

Officers in a marked car and an unmarked pickup approached, with the pickup coming up behind Salgado, the report said. Three officers in plain clothes and tactical vests with police insignias got out of the pickup and as they did, the report states, Salgado reversed and hit the truck, then proceeded to move forward, hitting the marked car. Officers said the driver was revving the car’s engine and they thought an officer was hit by the vehicle or pinned under a wheel.

Sgt. Richard Henderson and Officer Donald Saputa fired rifles at the car and Officer Eric Hulbert fired on it with a pistol, the report said.

None of the officers was wearing body cameras and the report notes that they were not required to wear them. There were no working video cameras on the two police vehicles or a third one also at the scene. The district attorney’s office reviewed cellphone video from social media but could not identify who took the video. The office also tracked down surveillance video that captured audio but no video of the scene.

“The forensic evidence collected and developed in this case does not negate the officers’ versions as to why they needed to use deadly force,” O’Malley concluded.

Police interviewed Salgado’s passenger, who is identified in the report as Witness #1, while she was in the hospital. The report notes that she was dizzy, in pain and “nodded off on several occasions during the interview and at one point sounded as though she was vomiting.”

She told police that Salgado picked her up in the car the day before and that they had slept in it that night. She said he wouldn’t tell her how he came to have the car and would not let her leave, though she said she wanted to. After the shooting stopped and Salgado was dead in the driver’s seat, the woman told police that she reached over, put the car in park and shut it off.

Initial reports said the woman was pregnant when she was shot, but O’Malley’s report said that was not the case.

O’Malley did not address why the report was so long in coming.

The case isn’t over yet. CHP still has not released its investigation. And a month after the shooting, Salgado’s passenger and his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the officers, claiming their actions were “indifferent to human life, premeditated, and criminal.”

Last fall, Salgado’s family joined the families of other people killed by police in California in supporting the creation of a statewide decertification process that will prevent officers who have been convicted of a felony or have a record of serious misconduct from moving to other departments.

That process, had it been in place in 2020, might have protected Salgado, his stepsister Amanda Blanco said then.

Sgt. Henderson, the family’s lawsuit notes, was also involved in the killing of 19 year-old Pedro Villanueva in Fullerton in 2016. The Orange County district attorney’s office didn’t charge him, after finding his actions “reasonable and justified.” 

(Pictured: Nancy O’Malley, file photo)

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