The tragic case of a suicidal Marine Corps veteran who called 911 and asked police to kill him ended Thursday when a federal civil-rights jury ruled that three Sanger police officers with assault rifles did not use excessive force – nor were they negligent – when they riddled his body with bullets in June 2012.
The jury’s verdict in U.S District Court in Fresno was a dramatic ending to a trial that gave a rare glimpse into an officer-involved shooting: A bystander videotaped it as it unfolded. The officers didn’t know about the videotape when they gave their account of the incident to Fresno County sheriff’s investigators.
The 12-second video shows five officers facing Salinas, who was unarmed and standing in a flower bed. The officers had formed a skirmish line, a police tactic in which officers stand side by side.
Officer Robert Pulkownik shot Salinas twice with a shotgun that fires beanbags. Simultaneously, Sgt. Jason Boust and officers Angela Yambupah and Preston Little fired 22 rounds at Salinas with assault rifles, striking him 11 times as he left the flower bed outside a business on Academy Avenue.
The officers were 10 to 15 feet from Salinas before they opened fire. Fresno County sheriff’s Sgt. Joshua McCahill, who assisted on the call, pointed a handgun at Salinas but did not fire his weapon.
The video wasn’t enough to sway the jury of five men and three women, who voted unanimously to find the officers had done nothing wrong.