Officer Miguel Soto of the Oakland Police Department was gunned down June 22, 1994, in a northwest Oakland neighborhood.
A veteran police officer, Soto, who risked gunfire to arrest a robber seven years ago and planned to retire in a few months, was fatally shot outside his patrol car.
Soto, 43, a 22-year veteran who had six children, was the 42nd Oakland officer to die in the line of duty. The department and the Oakland Police Officers Association established a $10,000 reward for information leading to the killer’s arrest.
Investigators said they didn’t know what kind of call Soto was on but said the neighborhood was known for heavy prostitution activity and violent drug gangs.
A motorist saw an unconscious Soto lying on the pavement behind his patrol car, which still had its engine and lights on, at 2:30 a.m. The motorist used the officer’s car radio to call for help.
Soto, who was wearing a protective vest and whose gun was still in its holster, had been shot at least twice. He died at Highland Hospital at 2:53 a.m.
Because of the way Soto’s car was parked, it was “consistent with a walking stop as opposed to a vehicle stop.” Normally, officers notify communication dispatchers when they make such stops, but, perhaps because the shooting happened instantaneously, he did not radio in.
Soto, who used to work at the police academy where he trained hundreds of officers, including some who were among the first to respond to where he was found shot, was an extremely popular officer. He was also a highly capable evidence technician, having received several commendations from district attorneys and investigators.
His death hit especially hard, coming less than seven months after the fatal shooting of Officer Bill Grijalva, murdered by an irate dog owner.
Soto had told other officers he hoped to retire by the end of the year so he could devote his time to his wife Janet, his children and his family-owned construction business.
Soto received the Medal of Valor, the department’s highest bravery commendation, for his actions June 4, 1987, while he was off-duty and unarmed. He saw a teenager snatch a woman’s purse and started chasing the robber. The robber fired several shots at Soto, who, with the help of a citizen, was able to capture and disarm the suspect.
Soto was born in Oakland and graduated from St. Elizabeth High School in 1969. He became a police officer in 1972 and received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration from California State University at Hayward in 1989.
Fellow officers described him as an extremely knowledgeable cop who dedicated his life to the Oakland Police Department. “It seemed like he lived here sometimes,” said Sgt. Patrick Haw, a police academy coordinator. “He was a real go-getter who just ate up anything that was physically demanding.”
Captain Larry Rodriguez said Soto’s death would have an impact on all police officers, especially the veteran officers who have known him a long time. “It makes you think that if it can happen to a veteran officer like Mike Soto, it could happen to me.
A trust fund was established for Soto’s wife Janet and their six children. Contributions may be sent to: Miguel Soto, Oakland POA, 717 Washington St., Oakland, CA 94607.
A jury convicted Raymond Scott of first-degree murder in the 1994 shooting death of Soto. The jury has decided that he will spend the rest of his life in prison.