Alameda DA Won’t Charge Officers in the Death of Salgado

John Burris demonstrates the scene at a 2020 press conference

By David M. Greenwald

Executive Editor

Oakland, CA – Alameda DA Nancy O’Malley announced on Monday that her office would not be charging officers for the killing of Erik Salgado on June 6, 2020.

“I have reviewed the report and agree with the conclusions that the evidence does not justify criminal charges against any law enforcement,” O’Malley said in a letter dated March 28, 2022 to the CHP Chief in Vallejo.

The family for attorney John Burris told the Vanguard in a statement that “there is sufficient evidence to support a conviction. Unfortunately, the DA played defense instead of being bold and offensive. Erik was unarmed, trying to slowly drive past the officers and he was shot 12 times. Moreover, it’s a violation of training to shoot into a moving car.”

In a phone interview with the Vanguard, Burris indicated he was “not surprised.”  They will now move forward with a civil case which could go to trial next year.

“It took a long time and looks to me that they ultimately decided they couldn’t disprove what the officers had to say,” he said.

According to officers, Salgado was attempting to hit one or more officers with a car.

Burris said this was not true, that “the officers were in a position of safety as he was going by.  Then they shoot into the car therefore creating this havoc where one car runs into another car.  But it really was this notion of whether officers were in a position of safety at the time or could have been put in a position of safety by moving out of the way.”

Around 10:45 pm on the June 6, CHP Sgt Richard Henderson along with Officers Donald Saputa and Eric Hulbert shot Salgado and a witness—Salgado would die on scene from his injuries.

A vehicle was observed driving down the street at a high rate of speed and, given the time frame and that looting and violence had occurred during the week, after obtaining the license plate they discovered that the plate was reported as lost or stolen.  

According to the report, Salgado was pursued by police, then suddenly reversed direction, striking one of the officer’s cars.

“At this point officers said they believed the suspect vehicle had struck one of the officers on scene, pinning him underneath the suspect vehicle,” the report said.  “Officer Saputa and Sergeant Henderson fired their rifles and Officer Hulbert fired his pistol towards the suspect vehicle striking the driver, Erik Salgado, and the right front passenger…”

An autopsy found that Salgado died of multiple gunshot wounds, including 16 rifle injuries to the torso and upper extremities.  A toxicology report found that he had amphetamine and methamphetamine as well as opiates in his system.

The report concluded that Sgt. Henderson initially believed that Officer Hulbert was in the path of Salgado and that Hulbert “may have been hit and trapped under the Hellcat as it continued to make its escape.”

Thus the reports notes, “If Sergeant Henderson’s belief is honest and reasonable even if mistaken, his actions will be justified under the laws of self-defense.”

The report says Officer Saputa believed another officer was in the path of the vehicle.  “Officer Saputa said that he yelled commands to the driver to stop to no avail. Officer Saputa said that he feared Officer Diehl would be killed by the Hellcat, so he fired his weapon until he believed the driver was incapacitated and the vehicle was not making any additional forward progress.”

Officer Hulbert also “justified his actions by indicating that he believed Officer Diehl would be hit and killed by the car.”

The report notes, “It is also apparent that visibility that day have been a factor in the perceptions of the officers. The officers described heavy smoke at the scene and their inability to see. These statements are confirmed by video from the area.”

Finally, it adds, “It is important to note that there are not any statements or evidence that contradict what the officers described.”

The report concludes: “While questions remain as to the use of force in this case, there is a lack of evidence and independent witnesses to proceed with criminal charges.”

Burris, however, believes that the officers acted unreasonably on that day, noting in a press conference on June, 2020, the CHP fired at least 40 gunshots at the vehicle at a time when Mr. Burris contends that “no officer or civilian was in any danger,” nor does he believe that they had “reason to believe anyone inside the vehicle was armed with any weapon.”

The CHP “gave no warning they would shoot before they opened fire, intentionally positioned themselves at angles around the red Dodge where they would not shoot each other, and fired away over an extended period of time, executing (Salgado) and severely injuring (the girlfriend).

“This is a particularly egregious, a particularly atrocious and callous and wanton reckless disregard for the lives of Erik and Brianna, and the community itself,” John Burris said in 2020.

Ben Nisenbaum, co-counsel for the Salgado family, called this act criminal—“you can’t run in front of a car” and then use that as justification to then shoot.

He argued that the officer got out of his car “and places himself directly in front of his car.”

He argued that “if you can do that, there’s something else you can do—back out of the way.”

Nisenbaum also said “there is an element that this appears to be premeditated.” He argued, “They positioned themselves in positions where they would not hit each other with their own crossfire.”

He said, “It is conscience-shocking, it is criminal and these officers should be prosecuted, they should be indicted.

Burris told the Vanguard this week, “The officers were not in danger, the kind of danger that would require shooting, and this officer overreacted and made assumptions that were false.”

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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