SLO County deputies fire 35 rounds in deadly traffic stop
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office on Friday released video of a fatal January 2017 shooting of a Paso Robles man the county District Attorney’s Office found deemed lawful after the man pulled a replica BB gun during a traffic stop.
Deputies fired a total of 35 rounds during the incident, killing 34-year-old Josue Gallardo, who had been wanted on an outstanding warrant for alleged domestic violence.
A District Attorney’s Office investigation found that the shooting was justified, according to a report released by that office in February.
According to the report, Gallardo purchased the BB gun at a local Walmart six days prior. An autopsy found that Gallardo had a potentially toxic amount of cocaine in his blood at the time of death, and evidence uncovered later, including a note found in his trunk, showed he was suicidal, the office’s report states.
Though a related wrongful death lawsuit is proceeding against the county in federal court, the Sheriff’s Office released the video of the shooting to local media on Friday in response to requests under a new state transparency law.
On Saturday, an attorney representing the man’s widow in the lawsuit said that Gallardo was “a loving father and a valued member of his community who didn’t deserve to die.
“Reports suggesting that he was suicidal miss the point,” Justin Sterling wrote to The Tribune Saturday. “Law enforcement officers do not get to kill suicidal people and need to be properly trained to deal with this common mental health scenario.”
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said on Monday that because of the pending lawsuit, the office could not comment at this time.
What the video shows
At about 12:05 a.m. on Jan. 24, 2017, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Senior Deputy Greg Roach and Deputy Jonathon Calvert pulled Gallardo over on Highway 101 in Atascadero after reportedly recognizing him on the road and knowing that he had a warrant for his arrest.
Video released by the county Friday shows the incident play out from the perspective of the patrol vehicle’s dash camera.
After the deputies approach on both sides of Gallardo’s vehicle with guns drawn, there is an inaudible verbal exchange, and Calvert is heard saying, “I need to see your hands right now, please.”
“Why? I didn’t do anything,” Gallardo is heard responding.
“I don’t want to shoot you — I don’t know you,” Calvert says. “Let’s start over: Do you have a gun, yes or no?”
After more words (inaudible on the video) are exchanged, Gallardo opens the driver’s side door and Roach, then Calvert, fire into the vehicle, with Calvert pivoting around the back of the vehicle, firing through the rear window.
After the report of shots fired goes out on the radio, the deputies stand by near the rear passenger door.
Roach makes another order for Gallardo to show his hands, before the deputies back up toward their patrol vehicle.
One of the deputies makes a call over the radio that the driver is not moving and that a firearm is in his right hand.
Gallardo died at the scene.
Shooting called justified
The District Attorney’s Office deemed the shooting legally justified in June 2017. A Sheriff’s Office investigation into the shooting concluded in January 2018.
The Sheriff’s Office provided its internal reports to The Tribune Friday, including the Coroner’s Office’s report finding Gallardo’s manner of death to be homicide, caused by exsanguination due to multiple gunshot wounds.
Specifically, Gallardo was shot eight times, with four of the wounds accompanied by corresponding exit wounds. Gallardo’s fatal wound came from a gunshot to the head, the Coroner’s Office found.
In total, the deputies fired 35 rounds. Roach fired 15 rounds, while Calvert discharged his weapon 20 times. The report does not specify whether either officer reloaded.
In the Sheriff’s Office’s investigative report, Calvert Roach told then-Cmdr. Jim Voge in an administrative interview that Gallardo made the statement: “Maybe I have a gun.”
Roach told Voge that he could see, due to his elevated position, Gallardo pull a handgun out of his right pocket as Calvert was giving Gallardo commands on the side of the highway.
Roach reported that he saw Gallardo fully take the gun out of his right pocket and twist it toward Calvert, whose view of Gallardo’s movements were blocked.
Both deputies remain with the Sheriff’s Office, according to rosters provided by the department in January.
Attorney Sterling, representing Gallardo’s widow in the civil lawsuit against the county, wrote in an email that police officers must be better equipped to deal with suicidal people, and that information released by the county has not been accurate.
“We intend to aggressively litigate this case, shedding light on the problematic professional pasts of these officers and the clear unconstitutional killing of Josh,” Sterling wrote. “We intend to demonstrate in court that the narrative county officials continue to push is not only self-serving but unsupported by the evidence in this case, including the assertions that Josh had armed himself with a gun and pointed it at any of these officers.”
Sterling said Gallardo was attempting to comply when Roach began firing, and that both deputies decided not to render aid to Gallardo as he sat dying in the vehicle. “Josh’s death was a tragedy for his family and we hope future news coverage is respectful and avoids rumor-mongering and victim-blaming,” he wrote.
Since January, The Tribune has received hundreds of pages of reports from local law enforcement agencies under SB 1421, a new state law that allows the public to review to investigations of officer-involved shootings, as well as confirmed instances of officer dishonesty and sexual misconduct.
Last month, the Grover Beach Police Department disclosed previously unreleased body camera footage of a fatal July 2017 shooting of a mentally disabled veteran who came at officers with a metal pipe.
Kenneth Alan Eustace’s social worker with the Veterans Administration said Eustace had talked about wanting to “die by cop.”
The county is still reviewing its records and said it expects to release more records to the newspaper in the coming months.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct Gallardo’s age.