'It was a massacre': Family of man fatally shot by troopers announces lawsuit

©The Mercury News

OAKLAND, Calif. — The family of a man killed by CHP officers over a presumed stolen car is filing a lawsuit for his wrongful death after he was shot 18 times.

The man’s pregnant girlfriend, who was also struck by gunfire, is claiming the shooting also contributed to the loss of their baby.

The law offices of civil rights attorney John Burris announced the federal lawsuit Monday against the California Highway Patrol over the June 2 fatal shooting of Erik Salgado, 23, and his girlfriend Brianna Colombo, who was injured. The car Salgado was driving was struck 40 times; Salgado himself fatally wounded by 18 shots. Colombo was stuck three times but survived.

“The number of shots fired by the officers was enough to kill a militia of terrorists. It was a massacre!” said Burris in a statement.

On June 2, Salgado and Colombo were in a red Dodge Charger that had been stolen from a San Leandro dealership several weeks before. Around 10:30 p.m. that day, the two were leaving the area of Salgado’s mothers home around 94th Avenue and Cherry Street when they were approached by an unmarked police car. At the same time, more police cars were closing in from behind, going south.

Salgado tried to pass one car but slightly bumped it, according to the law firm. When he backed up, he hit the car behind him, a police car. As he tried to straighten the car, an unnamed CHP officer standing outside his car started to fire at the front of Salgado’s car without warning, the lawsuit alleges. Two other officers then began to shoot, “unleashing a barrage of gunfire” at the car, hitting it about 40 times.

Other than the officers yelling to turn the engine off, there were no other efforts made to communicate with either Salgado or Colombo before the shooting, according to the lawsuit. Neither of the two was armed.

“The officers’ conduct was atrocious, callous and a wanton, reckless disregard for the lives of Erik, Brianna and the residential community. The officers knew nothing about Erik or Brianna, didn’t know if they stole the car, or even if they knew it was stolen,” Burris said in a statement.

Around the time that people were lining the streets in demonstrations over the death of George Floyd throughout the nation, Salgado’s death also sparked outrage in the community. Just days after his death, multiple rallies and marches took place, calling for justice for Salgado.

Mayor Libby Schaaf released a statement on his death at the time, saying the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, CHP and Oakland police were each conducting their own independent investigations of the shooting.

According to Burris, witnesses said the officers were outside their cars and safe when they fired their guns. A new state law that went into effect in January allows police officers to only use lethal force when “necessary”, and in response to an imminent threat of death or serious injury to justify their actions. This is a higher threshold than the previous “objectively reasonable” standard.

Burris said some officers shot with a high-power assault rifle, which demonstrates their lack of disregard for the two victims. He called the shooting a “complete overkill” for the potential crime.

Burris is asking the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office to charge the CHP officers with murder and assault with a deadly weapon.

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©2020 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)