A federal civil rights trial is now underway in District Court in Fresno, California – in the case of a mentally ill Marine vet with a death wish – who was gunned down by police nearly four years ago.
46-year-old Charles Salinas was battling many demons — and the day he died in a flowerbed near his childhood home in Sanger — he was apparently ready to die.
That day on June 15, 2012, Salinas reportedly called 911 telling the dispatcher he was “armed and dangerous” after saying: “I’m going to kill myself.”
He made it clear in that “chilling” 911 call, that he had a gun and two knives, and wanted police to kill him.
The day he died, police say, Salinas had a blood alcohol level of .30, well above the legal limit. He had mentioned to the 911 dispatcher that he was walking around drinking all day, and was planning to “go back to his childhood home to die.”
Salinas’s sister is suing the Sanger police and three of its officers for violating her brother’s civil rights. It turns out, Salinas was unarmed that afternoon, when police fired 22 rounds and killed him instantly. Esperanza Booke says the use of deadly force on her brother, who was mentally distraught, and unarmed, was unjustified.
One of the officers testified Wednesday that [the officers]”feared for their lives.” Sgt. Jason Boust told the court that before they shot and killed Salinas, they saw him motioning toward his waistband just before he began to charge at them. He was described by Boust as “highly agitated.”
Attorneys representing Booke allege a police cover-up, because the officers spoke more than four hours with an attorney and the police chief behind closed doors after the incident. They also say a video taken by someone at the scene conflicts with the officers’ accounts. They never saw a weapon and were never threatened by Salinas. In fact, he obeyed their orders to get out of the flowerbed. The lawyers claim that the three defendants didn’t follow police procedures for a mentally ill suspect.
Salinas entered the Marine Corps in 1988, according to the Fresno Bee, and was honorably discharged in 1991. He suffered from PTSD and was being treated at a local VA. He was well known to law enforcement officials in the area — with prior convictions for drunk driving and another high profile incident that occurred in 1995. An armed Salinas reportedly went on a drunken rampage, taking two pizza restaurant employees hostage.
Unlike other fatal police shootings across the country, Salinas’ death didn’t attract protestors. His family quietly built a memorial for him in the flowerbed in Sanger where a photograph of him as a Marine hangs, along with flowers and mementos to include a medal saying “rifle sharpshooter.”
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