The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has cleared Detective David Prewett, an SAPD police officer who shot and killed Steve Salgado, an unarmed 18-year-old, who was running from members of the Santa Ana Police Department’s Gang Suppression Unit, according to the O.C. Register.
The incident happened on Jan. 29, at around 4:40 p.m., at the 400 block of South Birch St., in Santa Ana, when Prewett and five other SAPD police officers were patrolling the neighborhood when the saw an occupied vehicle parked in the middle of an alley, effectively blocking street traffic.
For some reason Salgado ran off after he got out of the front passenger seat of that vehicle. Prewett chased him on foot but the other officers drove after him.
Det. Tyler Salo, one of the police officers, told the OCDA investigators that Salgado had his hand on an item in the right front pocket of his shorts, while he was running away. Salo then radioed the other police officers and warned them that Salgado might be armed.
Salo reportedly yelled at Salgado, “Stop. Police.”
Prewett then ordered Salgado to “Drop the gun.”
Salgado looked back at the police officers, as he continued to run away, and Prewett then shot him three times.
A nearby home’s security camera caught part of the chase, according to the OCDA. While the footage was not of great quality it appeared to show Salgado holding something in his pocket as he ran – and he kept looking behind him and may have pulled something out of his pocket and thrown it.
But the SAPD did not find a weapon after the shooting.
What the police did find however was two cell phones, a bindle with “white crystalline powder” and a glass pipe. The OCDA did not verify if the substance was tested or if they determined it was Salgado’s but a blood test they ran on his corpse determined that he had meth in his system. They never did determine if the phones were his either.
For some reason Prewett refused to give a statement to the OCDA investigators after he shot Salgado. So the investigators were unable to verify if his state of mind at the time of the shooting was clear.
But two other police officers did give statements and they said they had drawn their guns and had been ready to use deadly force against Salgado.
The fatal shooting happened near an apartment complex where families and children were present. The police officers said that Salgado appeared to be a gang member and he ran away from them in an area that one of Santa Ana’s most active street gangs is based in.
The report also concluded that Salgado was in fact a documented gang member.
Prewett was one of several SAPD police officers who shot Elmer Perez, a 27-year old, while he was holding what turned out to be a replica handgun, back in 2010.
Salgado’s death prompted 30 protesters to march from Birch Street to the Santa Ana Police Department several days after the shooting.
The incident involving Salgado wasn’t the first time that Prewett has been cleared by DA investigators for his role in a fatal shooting.
In 2010, Prewett was one of several officers who shot Elmer Perez while the 27-year-old was holding a replica handgun. The police officers shot Perez in front of his girlfriend and their 2-year old son. It turned out the family had called the police to get help for Perez, who had been acting odd and had been agitated at his pregnant girlfriend. He was thought to be on drugs as well. And the family did not know that his replica handgun was not real.
Prewett and the other police officers were cleared by the OCDA in the Perez shooting. And Prewett dod not provide a statement to the OCDA investigators after that shooting either..