≡ Menu

Salinas Police Department dispatch traffic posted on You Tube early Friday provides a glimpse into the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Marlon Rodes-Sanchez but stops well short of a complete account.

Two Salinas police officers, Manuel Lopez and Jared Dominici, shot the teenager the afternoon of Jan. 18 at the Terrace Street home where he reportedly had been renting a room. Officers were dispatched to the residence near Cesar Chavez Park when other residents reported that the youth had armed himself with a butcher knife and was acting erratically.

In all, about 14 Salinas police officers were dispatched. Deputy District Attorney Ed Hazel, who is in charge of the investigation into the shooting, has said that before the fatal shooting officers shot the boy with rubber bullets and tasers and arranged for the Salinas Fire Department to spray him with a high-pressure hose in an unsuccessful attempt to dislodge the knife. Most of the confrontation occurred outside the residence but the boy was shot when officers pursued him into the vacated home and, according to Hazel, turned toward them with the knife in hand.

(Previous Partisan post on the shooting)

Witnesses and officials have indicated the confrontation lasted for more than an hour but the scanner traffic posted on the You Tube website runs slightly less than 22 minutes start to finish. The dispatch traffic provides little information about the use of the fire hose. Use of rubber bullets does not seem to be mentioned.

The audio recording appears to have been posted by an Ohio woman, Shelley Ginther, whose Facebook page indicates that she views herself as a law enforcement watchdog. She said in an email that she believed the youth was retreating from officers when he was shot but the recording does not seem to back that up. Recordings of police dispatch traffic are public records but often are withheld until formal investigations into the underlying event have been completed.

The recording begins with a dispatcher alerting units to a male “5150” armed with a knife. The number is  the Welfare & Institutions Code designation for someone with mental problems. He is described as wearing a red sweatshirt and white pants.

By the time patrol units start arriving, the dispatcher provides them with the boy’s name. One of the first officers at the scene advises via radio that he could not tell exactly what Rodes-Sanchez was doing. “He seems to be talking to himself… He is scraping the knife on the cement … He’s not responding to us.”

Three minutes into the incident, an officer reports that the youth appears to be sharpening the knife. The reporting person, the one who called police, lives at the residence, the dispatcher reported.

Four minutes in, officers repeat that the boy was not responding but was talking to himself. A family friend who was there at the time told the Monterey County Weekly that the boy was high on drugs, something he had smoked, but that he did not, in his view, pose a threat to officers.

Officers at the scene called for more units and asked to be provided with a shield. They said via radio that they wanted to remove other occupants from the residence but feared that without a shield, they would be exposed to the boy and his knife.

At different points, officers on either side of the property warned others that if there was gunfire, they might be in the line of fire.

At the 5 minute, 45 second mark, an officer at the scene asked the dispatcher to contact the fire department about using a water stream to disarm the boy. A fire engine arrived less than three minutes later

Officers reported that the boy still was not responding. They discussed removing some fence boards in an attempt to evacuate the residence.

“We’re still trying to talk to him. He’s talking to himself and sharpening the knife.”

At the 12:15 mark, an officer said they were waiting for a fire battalion chief to give the go-ahead to use the fire hose. Fifteen seconds later, at the 12:15 mark, an officer used the radio to say the boy had briefly dropped the knife but “continues to ignore us.”

At the 13:30 mark, there is a brief mention of a police dog. At the 14:00 mark, an officer says, “We’re letting him know that he’s under arrest at this point and needs to comply.”

Fourteen minutes into the incident, an officer reports that they would be deploying the water hose. It sounds as though he says something else would be deployed as well but it is indistinct.

Around the 15 minute mark, an officer says, “He’s moving…. He still has the knife.” At 15:22, “He’s walking back to the house…. He still has the knife.” At 15:45, “He’s back in the house.”

About 90 seconds later, an officer reports “multiple tasers deployed. Ineffective.” He says the boy is behind a wall and is still holding the knife.

Some 17 minutes into the incident, an officer reports that the boy is still not complying and is sharpening the knife.

At the 18 minute mark, someone reports “Shots fired. Shots fired.”

An officer reports that one round had come from inside the residence, had gone through a wall and had struck his patrol car. Though family members have said authorities did not send an ambulance, someone on the radio says “Send medical. Start AMR (American Medical Response).”

At the 18:40 mark, an officer reports “Suspect is down. Send the medical,” and seconds later another officer reports that the neighboring residence had been hit by gunfire. Just under 22 minutes after the recording began, it ends.

Authorities have  declined to publicly release body cam video or witness statements. A police spokesman has indicated that the video likely would be made available after the DA’s investigation is complete, a process that generally takes several months or longer.


Nationally, the increase in the number of videotaped police shootings has caused the courts and many law enforcement agencies to become more transparent about their procedures and about the incidents leading to fatal encounters.

In Monterey County, the opposite seems to be occurring. The best example came this week after Salinas police shot and killed a knife-wielding teenager after efforts to subdue him failed. You likely have heard little about it. Because little information has been made public, the news coverage has been slight.

It happened around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday in the 600 block of Terrace Street in Salinas. Fourteen officers were involved and seven have been placed on routine administrative leave pending internal investigation into the event. Why so many? Who knows? We likely will never know.

The Police Department said the boy, rumored to be 16, had been wielding a knife, that officers had arranged for fire fighters to spray him with a fire hose and then shot him with rubber bullets and a stun gun. After he entered a residence, he was confronted by two officers and was shot when he turned toward them, according to Deputy District Attorney Ed Hazel of the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office.

Beyond that, authorities aren’t saying much, and are not even identifying the youth. Early on he was reported to be a teenage boy but even his age was withheld. Hazel told the Monterey Herald that his office was still deciding whether to publicly identify him because of his age. Hazel said at that time that the name would not be released this week.

UPDATE: Friday afternoon, the DA’s Office released the boy’s name as Marlon Joel Rodas-Sanchez. Witnesses told TV station KION that the youth had been renting a room in the area

At the Salinas Police Department, Chief Adele Frias said there would be no comment.

So what are we left with is that brief description of the incident from Hazel. It’s in the paragraphs above. That’s about it.

Under the previous Salinas police administration, a political decision was made to have the District Attorney’s Office take the lead on investigating police shooting cases, making it Police Department policy not to make any comment on the incident or the process. No matter what questions arose. No matter whether the officers’ actions were being misconstrued or mischaracterized. No comment.

When Hazel was asked for more information this week, he said he couldn’t provide it because he didn’t want to interfere with the Police Department’s criminal investigation. Not any investigation into the shooting but into the actions of the boy. Police Department refers questions to DA. DA says can’t comment for fear of interfering with the police.

Contrast this with what has happened elsewhere.

In Ohio last year, when police fatally shot a 13-year-old boy with a BB gun and a 12-year-old boy with an airsoft gun, the names of the boys were made public within days. (In fairness to local authorities, it appears from the news coverage that the names were released by Ohio authorities but the information might have come from the families.)

In Aptos in November, a sheriff’s deputies shot and killed 15-year-old Luke Smith, who was high on LSD when he stabbed some of his family members. Within days, authorities there released police video of the incident, which showed officers making repeated attempts to have the boy drop the knife.

When can we expect to see body cam video from Wednesday’s shooting? Probably never unless a news organization goes to court to try to force the issue. Protocols haven’t been established on when videos will be made public in Monterey County, or at least as far as we know.

Salinas police and the District Attorney’s Office have succeeded in limiting any immediate fallout from this boy’s death but it comes at a cost of maintaining trust in the community. Helping to keep things quiet is the reality of media shrinkage, with local news crews generally too small and overworked to knock on doors in order to find out what witnesses saw.

I have no reason to suspect the police did anything inappropriate, though every case like this should raise questions about the general police approach to erratic behavior and should prompt comparisons to how such situations are handled in other countries. I am not pushing for additional information because I think it will make the police look bad. I want to see more information to see if there are any lessons to be learned and I don’t want the police to be the sole judge of that.

Back to the identification. Hazel said Thursday that he has not released the name because he is researching the law to see if it is permissible. He could not cite a statute, case or anything else sanctioning hiding the name of someone shot by police, juvenile or adult. State public records law makes it clear that information should be released absent statutory authority or a compelling reason to keep it private. The law does shield the name of juvenile offenders in most cases but those rules have not been construed to apply to the deceased. (Despite official interest in protecting the youth’s name and reputation, do not be surprise if his criminal record, if any, leaks out.)

Hazel correctly noted that the law also allows information to be kept private if its release would jeopardize a criminal investigation. In this case, I suspect that release of the name might lead an additional reporter or two to knock on a door but it is difficult to imagine how any investigation would be compromised.

In cases like this, authorities often adopt the view that information that can be withheld should or must be withheld. The result, I’m afraid, is suspicion that shades opinions of law enforcement even when law enforcement has acted entirely appropriately.

What happens next is this. The District Attorney’s Office some months from now — or longer —  will announce that no criminal charges are being filed against any of the officers involved but it will reject any request for reports from the investigation on grounds that state law allows them to be kept secret. Allows. Not requires.

The Police Department will conduct an internal investigation and decide whether any of its rules were broken. We’ll never hear the results. The details of what happened in the 600 block of Terrace Street will never become public unless the family files and pursues a lawsuit. The authorities are asking us to trust them to handle such situations properly and then to fully investigate. In fact, we do trust them for the most part  but the trust fades when they won’t treat us like adults.

In many parts of the country, authorities have become more transparent, and that’s a good thing. In the short term, the release of more information rather than less can cause a temporary hardening of attitudes, but in the long term the public will be comforted knowing that the truth is not being hidden.

Fourteen officers were involved in an incident that resulted in the death of a 16 year old boy and the community doesn’t know much more than that. That’s transparency, Monterey County style.


The following news release came out a few minutes ago about an officer-involved shooting in Monterey.


4:40 p.m. Update: District Attorney’s Office says Alvarado had attempted to set curtains on fire at his family home and would not comply with police direction when at least two officers arrived. When told to put his hands in the air, the DA’s Office said, he instead went at the officers with a cell phone in his hand and was shot. DA’s Office said it did not know whether a Taser or other device had been used.

Update: Monterey campaign manager and public relations specialist Spencer Critchley says in comments below that the no comments from the officials do not reflect a no-comment position. It’s just that they can’t comment. Critchley is the acting public information officer for the Salinas Police Department.

Text of original piece:

If Salinas police had arrested Frank Alvarado early Thursday, they would have been required to provide some details, starting with why he had been arrested. State law mandates the release of some basic information in order to prevent what would amount to secret arrests.

But since Alvarado was killed, state law apparently doesn’t require the Police Department to say much of anything about it. Salinas police and the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office essentially have revealed nothing about what led to the 5 a.m. shooting on the east side of Salinas.

So what we have here amounts to an almost secret killing.

The District Attorney’s Office will now conduct an investigation. It will interview the officers involved and any witnesses. It will look at photos from the scene of the shooting, examine bullet casings, examine Alvarado’s criminal record, wait several weeks for results of toxicology testing, and then make an announcement.

Unless DA investigators determine that the officers acted criminally, all the public is likely to hear about the outcome is that charges will not be filed. Then the Police Department will announce some time later that no department policies had been violated.

Details? The whats and whys of what actually happened? They may never be made public. If the investigations support the officers’ actions, officialdom may find it necessary for the sake of argument to say what Alvarado did to prompt the shooting, but if any contrary evidence exists, we’re not likely to hear about it.

It is easy to understand why the authorities would want to keep the information under wraps. This was the fourth case this year of Salinas police fatally shooting someone, and the most recent previous case prompted considerable protest after a video went viral showing officers shooting a man who may or may not have been threatening them with pruning shears.

The authorities don’t want more protest marches, more angry neighborhood meetings. But there is some reason to suspect that this official silent treatment could backfire. The public, and especially Alvarado’s family, will want answers. The authorities, after formally adopting a no comment posture, could find themselves locked into that posture, no matter how awkward it becomes. Anyone thinking the public reaction would be “oh well, that’s the way it goes” ought to think again.

This is not to suggest the police did anything wrong. Alvarado was a parolee with a history of violence. But the police don’t answer just to themselves or the District Attorney’s Office. They answer to the public. This “no comment” position isn’t acceptable.

Salinas police officials have said they are working to regain the community’s trust. They are going about it entirely the wrong way.

A reporter for the Salinas Californian tweeted this morning that DA Dean Flippo “may” have more to say later today. Go for it, Dean. You’d be doing the community and probably even the Police Department a favor.