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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.

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KSBW television says at the end of General Manager Joe Heston’s latest on-air editorial that the station welcomes responsible replies. Even though my middle name is Responsible, it’s hard to tell whether this will meet the standard, so here goes nothing.

The topic was surveillance cameras.

Years ago, writer Hunter Thompson was defending his style of rule-breaking journalism. He wrote that the only objective form of journalism was a surveillance camera in a store, but he corrected himself, saying that even that didn’t qualify because someone could decide when to turn it on and off.

That’s part of what’s wrong with Heston’s latest editorial, in which he gives unconditional support to installation of police surveillance cameras. (Not everywhere, of course, but in high-crime neighborhoods.) He anoints them as infallible, even headlining his piece “Cameras don’t lie.” The truth is, as even Heston knows, they do fib and they create misimpressions. Even law enforcement sees it that way. Oftentimes when a video camera catches a cop smacking someone around, the official line is that the camera didn’t record the events leading up to the smacking. “Oh, don’t be misled by what you saw on camera,” they tell us. “That’s out of context.”

When two Salinas cops recently shot and killed a man holding pruning shears, the action was caught by two cameras, but we were told they only caught a tiny bit of the part where he lunged at the officers.

I agree that surveillance cameras can be useful in the right place and the right time, but I don’t share Heston’s enthusiasm for their widespread use or his trust in their accuracy. I also am bothered by the way he dismisses people who don’t agree with him.

“With cities using surveillance cameras in public areas,” he tells us, “it should remind people that if you don’t have anything to hide, you don’t have anything to worry about.” In other words, if you don’t like it, you must be up to no good.

It is one of the worst arguments possible: I must be right because anyone who disagrees with me should be ignored.

The city of Salinas recently started using surveillance cameras and Seaside is about to start. Heston tells us that people shouldn’t worry because there are lots of cameras out there already—TV cameras, cell phone cameras, security cameras. Which is a little like saying don’t worry about a new source of pollution because there’s already a lot of pollution.

Heston concludes, “When an innocent bystander is killed during a community disturbance and a police officer is knocked unconscious by a bottle to the head, surveillance cameras may, sadly, be the only fearless, accurate, yet ever-silent witnesses to the crime. In those cases, the camera would be the Eye of Truth.”

Heston apparently doesn’t watch much baseball and hasn’t seen those instant replays of close calls. It’s a new thing in Major League Baseball this year. When the coach thinks the umpire got it wrong, he can ask for officials to watch the play again, on camera, in slow motion. As often as not, the replay from one angle makes it appear the umpire is right but the replay from another angle shows the coach is right.

Can both be right? Probably not. Can both be wrong? Absolutely. As Nietzsche said, “There are no facts, only interpretations.”

By the way, any sort of reply to this editorial is invited, responsible or not, but those of you submitting the irresponsible type are encouraged to make note of that at the beginning so you don’t startle me.

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