Protesters rallied on Monday around the family of a young man shot and killed by state police in East Oakland. Erik Salgado, 23, and his girlfriend Brianna Colombo, also 23, were in a Dodge Challenger Hellcat one block from Salgado’s mother’s home when they were both shot by three California Highway Patrol officers on Saturday around 10:45 p.m.
Salgado died at the scene. Colombo, who is four months pregnant according to Salgado’s family, exited the passenger side of the car after the shooting, clutching her stomach and arm, according to neighbors who witnessed the shooting.
In an Oakland Police Department statement released late Tuesday, there is no mention of Salgado or Colombo being armed at the time of the shooting. According to the statement: “CHP officers advised they exited their vehicles to conduct a vehicle stop at which time the driver of the Dodge Hellcat began ramming CHP vehicles. Three CHP officers discharged their firearms in the direction of the driver of the Dodge Hellcat, which was also occupied by a female passenger.”
The OPD statement did not specify how many times CHP officers fired.
Lieutenant Ted Henderson of the San Leandro Police Department told The Oaklandside on Tuesday that the car Salgado was driving was one of 80 vehicles stolen on May 31 from a San Leandro auto dealership. Henderson said SLPD does not know if Salgado stole the vehicle.
According to OPD, Colombo was struck by gunfire and is being treated in a local hospital. But police have not released her name or provided any update on her condition.
The Oaklandside learned of Colombo’s involvement independently — from her father, Gary Colombo of San Leandro. He said he has not been allowed to see his daughter since the shooting and has received no information from the police other than that she was injured.
“I was out of town at my cabin when it happened,” he said. “I couldn’t get here fast enough.”
Colombo had a brief phone conversation with his daughter after she was taken to a hospital. “I didn’t ask her about Erik, but I’m sure she knows he’s dead,” he said. “What if they had had their kid in the backseat?” he said.
Colombo and Salgado have a three-year-old daughter who is currently staying with Colombo’s parents.
On Tuesday, CHP declined to provide any additional information about the shooting, or what led up to it.
“We understand there’s interest,” said Fran Clader, a spokesperson for CHP. “Unfortunately with a lot of these things we have to be really careful about releasing information when the investigation is ongoing.”
California Highway Patrol is conducting an administrative investigation to determine whether its officers violated CHP policies. The Oakland Police Department and the Alameda district attorney will oversee the criminal investigation to determine whether CHP officers violated the law and should be charged with murder or manslaughter.
The lack of information from law enforcement agencies has fueled speculation about what happened. Unattributed reports indicate that CHP officers may have fired up to 40 times at Salgado’s vehicle. Videos shared by neighbors on Cherry Street show that CHP officers were armed with AR-15 rifles.
According to court records, Salgado was arrested in 2018 for three separate vehicle thefts. He was detained in Santa Rita Jail as recently as April 18 after he was arrested in San Leandro for vehicle theft and several outstanding warrants for receiving stolen property, driving on a suspended license, and fleeing from police in Contra Costa County.
Salgado’s neighbors in East Oakland who witnessed the shooting told The Oaklandside that around 10:30 p.m., the Dodge Challenger was stopped and blocked in on both sides of the 9600 block of Cherry Street by multiple CHP vehicles. Several residents filmed and recorded audio of the immediate aftermath of the shooting and shared it with The Oaklandside. In one recording, police officers can be heard yelling at Salgado and his girlfriend to “turn off the vehicle.” In another, video footage shows Salgado lying on his back in the street and an officer trying to resuscitate him by giving Salgado chest compressions.
One witness, who asked not to be named because he doesn’t want the police knowing who he is, said he didn’t hear or see any signs that Salgado or his girlfriend had a weapon or threatened the officers. The man said he did not hear CHP officers order Salgado to drop a weapon. He said the CHP surrounded Salgado’s car and ordered him to turn it off, and shots rang out at roughly the same time. Shortly after, Salgado’s girlfriend got out of the car, wounded.
Another neighbor who did not want to be named said he was in his house when he heard a sudden barrage of gunshots and police officers yelling. “They emptied, like, two clips,” said the man, referring to pistol magazines which can each hold around 17 rounds of ammunition.
Salgado’s mother, Selina Ramirez, said she is confused about the incident, and said police have not offered to explain to her what happened.
On Sunday morning, Ramirez and other family members were gathering around a small shrine to Salgado being assembled on a neighbor’s fence. As she walked around the street, obviously distraught, Ramirez found a bullet fragment on the ground but was uncertain whether it came from a CHP officer’s weapon. Ramirez said she and several family members stood on the street for hours after Salgado was killed, asking the police for more information.
“We were out until 3 a.m.,” she said, “but they didn’t tell us anything.”
Neighbors who live on the block where Salgado was shot said CHP immediately sealed off the entire area with crime scene tape and made people stay indoors, and that CHP officers also took surveillance video from several houses with cameras on the street that may have recorded the shooting.
An archive of the OPD’s radio communications indicates that CHP officers told Oakland police that Salgado shot at a CHP officer after they tried to conduct a traffic stop on him. A few minutes later, an OPD dispatcher told Oakland police who were responding that they could “slow down” because CHP was “inside of the vehicle,” that “there’s no one injured,” and that CHP “would like to seal off the perimeter.”
Several minutes later, an OPD officer at the scene broadcasted a correction over the police radio saying that medical help was needed because “apparently two of the suspects were hit.”
The CHP’s refusal to provide information about the incident is not unusual. California Highway Patrol has not released any records regarding its officers’ past use of deadly force, despite a state law that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2019, requiring police to disclose previously confidential investigative records about shootings and other fatal incidents. KQED is currently suing the CHP over its refusal to hand over these records. The Oaklandside also put in records requests with CHP, but has yet to receive a single file.
On Monday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf released a short statement about the shooting. “Tragically, a man identified by family and friends as Erik Salgado was killed and a woman in the passenger seat was injured,” the mayor wrote. A copy of the statement posted to Facebook drew dozens of comments, many critical of OPD and CHP for not releasing more information about the shooting.
Salgado was killed in a part of Oakland that has seen multiple controversial police shootings over the past nine years. In 2011, an Oakland police officer shot and killed Arthur Raleigh on the 9900 block of Cherry Street, two blocks from where Salgado was killed.
In 2012, Alan Blueford was shot and killed by an Oakland police officer on 92nd Avenue and Birch Street, about three blocks away. In 2015, Richard Perkins was killed by multiple Oakland police officers at 90th Avenue and Bancroft Avenue, about seven blocks from where Salgado was killed.
On Monday, around 1,000 Oakland residents and activists gathered on the grass at Elmhurst School on 98th Avenue, about one block from the scene of the shooting. Salgado’s family members joined the protest as it marched to his shrine.
“We don’t need the police,” George Galvis, an organizer of the march told the crowd before they stepped into 98th Avenue. “We don’t need police protection. We need protection from the police.”