Santa Ana Approved $1.7 Million to Settle Police Shooting Lawsuit Before Passing Cop Raises

Steve Salgado, r.i.p.

On Feb. 5, a controversial three-year, $25.6 million police union contract commanded attention during Santa Ana city council. Before council members approved the contract without appropriating needed funds for it, they also quietly voted on a $1.7 million settlement to dismiss a lawsuit regarding the fatal shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Steve Salgado in 2017 by Santa Ana policeman David Prewett during closed session.

The incident sparked angry street protests in the immediate aftermath two years ago, but few took notice of the sizable settlement at the meeting earlier this month. Santa Ana city attorney Sonia Carvalho disclosed the amount while giving a brief closed session report back to council. She noted that five councilmen voted in favor of the settlement with only councilwoman Cecilia Iglesias dissenting.

Back on Jan. 29, 2017, Santa Ana Gang Suppression Unit detectives patrolled a neighborhood claimed by the Walnut Street gang when they happened upon Salgado getting out of the passenger side of a car stopped at an alleyway. The young man continued walking in a direction away from the police when Prewett gave chase.

Detective Tyler Salo radioed a warning to officers that Salgado may be armed with a gun based on his observations. Prewett commanded Salgado to drop his gun during the foot pursuit. He looked over his shoulder towards Prewett instead and that’s when the policeman fired his weapon three times. A search recovered no gun on Salgado; only a meth pipe and two broken cellphones. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

“It was a tragic, unjustified shooting,” says Kent Henderson, one of the attorneys representing Salgado family members. “There really was no reason for it.” The suit alleged that Prewett shot Salgado in the back three times and that officers at the scene delayed medical care to him afterward.

The Orange County District Attorney’s (OCDA) saw no foul play and closed a criminal probe into the police shooting months after it happened without pressing any charges. Prewett refused to speak with investigators about the incident, leaving them with no insight into his “frame of mind” at the critical moment. No matter; the OCDA report noted that two other officers on the scene told them that they drew their weapons and prepared to use deadly force against Salgado, a documented gang member, and that proved good enough to stamp the shooting justified.

Prewett previously gunned down another Latino man in 2010 when responding to a domestic disturbance call. According to an OCDA report into the shooting, Elmer Perez had a toy replica gun and raised it when Prewett and three other Santa Ana policeman opened fire. None gave statements to OCDA investigators, but the office cleared all just the same. The shooting resulted in a federal wrongful death lawsuit where Prewett stated in depositions that he fired 10 times. A federal jury ruled in favor of the officers in 2014.

The $1.7 million settlement in the Salgado case will be awarded to several plaintiffs. At the time, the deceased young man left a child behind with another on the way. In dismissing the suit, the city admits no wrongdoing.

Hefty settlements in officer-involved shooting cases, including two in 2016 that cost $6.8 million together, prompted the previous Santa Ana city council to consider police oversight options. In 2017, that council passed a budget with $35,000 earmarked to explore whether to form such a board or not.

No such police oversight board exists in Santa Ana today.

Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!

6 Replies to “Santa Ana Approved $1.7 Million to Settle Police Shooting Lawsuit Before Passing Cop Raises”

  1. The $1.7M is the cost of doing business and not a reflection of whether or not Officer Prewett did anything wrong. It’s cheaper to pay that money then defend the lawsuit and possibly lose at trial.

    The second shooting was investigated and the officers cleared by the OCDA. Then the officers were sued in federal court and a federal jury ruled against the dead gang member and his family. Does a “Latino” man that points a gun at a police officer get a pass? Is he entitled to special treatment because he’s “Latino” or “black”? It was a toy gun. Is the officer supposed to call a time out in the middle of a very stressful, possibly deadly situation and ask the suspect, “Excuse me sir. Is that a real gun or a toy gun that you are pointing at me before I shoot you?”

    Mr. Roman if you have never heard of the Miranda Decision or the Fifth Amendment you might want to review both of those. Police officers are entitled to use both of them when they are the subjects of a criminal investigation, lest their statements be used against them by a court of law; the liberal press or some Monday Morning Quarterback. You might also consider going on a ride along with the SAPD, Long Beach PD or LAPD Gang Units and get a first hand look at what these officers go through day in and day out.

    1. Congrats, Armando.

      You’ve added precious little to the discussion.

      The city admits no wrongdoing by agreeing to a settlement? Reported that!

      The other shooting cleared by OCDA? Reported that, too!

      Maybe you could read the depositions from the Elmer Perez case and learn more about the toy gun and what family members said about it before the shooting.

      Lastly, police can refuse comment to OCDA investigators because of the fifth amendment? No way! What are you gonna tell me next? That refusal to comment is simply that and cannot be used against an officer in determining legal conclusions? Earth shattering!

  2. SAPD is full of thugs and they run the city council and OCDA. Nothing is going to change with election of Todd Spitzer, he is the reincarnation of T Rack. He proved it the other day when he cleared SAPD officers who beat a homeless man to death. So much for change

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