The mother of the 16-year-old Salinas boy killed by Salinas police last month says a witness told her the boy was unarmed when he was shot, having dropped the knife that he had been waving around outside his residence, but the Monterey County District Atttorney’s Office says the evidence contradicts her.
Lorena Rodas said a man who was at the Terrace Avenue residence when Marlon Rodas-Sanchez was killed said he had watched as fire fighters used a fire hose to try to dislodge the knife. She indicated he wasn’t sure whether the stream of water had knocked the weapon from the boy’s hand but the witness told her the boy was unarmed when he was shot after walking into the home.
“That’s what the man told me and he told the same thing to his father,” Rodas said. “The man said he didn’t have the knife when he went inside, because the knife was outside.”
Assistant District Attorney Berkley Brannon, however, said body camera footage from the event shows that the boy was armed when he was shot.
“There’s a lot of body cam footage, and I’ve seen enough to say that that (the mother’s account) is not true,” Brannon said Thursday.
Largely because of disputes over officer-involved shootings nationally, Salinas police like many of their counterparts now carry small video cameras on their uniforms. Most police agencies, Salinas included, have not settled on procedures on when and how footage from those cameras are to be made public. Salinas police spokesman Spencer Critchley suggested last month that the video from the Jan. 18 shooting will be made available at some point.
Marlon was shot to death Jan. 18 after officers were dispatched to the residence after being told he was carrying a butcher knife and acting irrationally. Deputy District Attorney Ed Hazel said earlier that 14 officers responded to the call. He said the boy was tased and shot with rubber bullets before the fire hose was turned on him.
A recording of the police dispatch tape indicates that officers repeatedly told the boy to drop the weapon and that he would not respond. Officers reported that he repeatedly appeared to be sharpening the knife on cement and talking to himself. A witness, believed to be the man Marlon’s mother spoke with, later said the boy was high on drugs of some sort.
Rodas, the mother, told a Spanish-language translator for the Partisan in a telephone interview that she had few details about the incident. She lives in the San Jose area and her husband, who lived with the boy, wasn’t home at the time of the shooting.
“The truth is I don’t know how to explain it very well because I wasn’t there. His dad wasn’t there either. He was working, but just before this happened, (Marlon) was with me. He left on Monday and I didn’t see him again until he was in a box. And they wouldn’t let me even identify him at the morgue. That seems very strange to me because as his parents, we would recognize him. I didn’t see him until he was at the funeral home.”
Rodas said the funeral home told her that Marlon had been shot eight times, once in the heart. Authorities said earlier that he was shot six times by an automatic rifle and twice by a handgun.
She said most of her information came from the man who was at the house at the time. She said he told her he didn’t see officers using a taser or rubber bullets but did see the fire hose.
“He said that was the only thing he saw that they used. My son was very thin and small, just a child. If you saw his picture you’d see.”
On the dispatch tape, officers can be heard saying a taser had been used but that it was ineffective.
Rodas said she feels she disrespected by authorities.
“They left everything destroyed (in the house), the blood and all. It’s not right to leave things like that. It’s been 19 days now and we are all destroyed. We’re so sad. What I want is to have justice. They haven’t even given me his clothes that he wore.
“The funeral home gave me his rosary. And two little earrings. The funeral home gave me that. The police still have his phone and his clothes. I don’t know why they won’t give them to me.”
She continued, in Spanish, “The police didn’t say anything. Only that they are investigating. The officer said the investigation could take months or years. That’s what he told me.”
She said she has an appointment with a lawyer next month.