A confusing 911 call led police to his Charlotte home. Now, this father of 5 is dead.

Candlelight vigil for Rueben Galindo

Candlelight vigil Friday night for police shooting victim Rueben Galindo in front of the apartment complex where he was shot.
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Candlelight vigil Friday night for police shooting victim Rueben Galindo in front of the apartment complex where he was shot.

The wife of a man fatally shot by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police at his home Wednesday says her husband called 911 that night and asked for authorities to pick up a gun that he wanted to surrender.

Police say a confusing 911 call involving interpreters preceded the shooting of Rueben Galindo, a 29-year-old father of five, including a 3-month-old.

On Friday night, family and friends gathered with Galindo’s wife, Azucena Zamoraro, in front of their apartment complex at Hunters Pointe in northeast Charlotte. The crowd held a vigil; speakers said Galindo was wrongfully killed.

Friends and family release a floating candle as they grieve during a vigil Friday night to remember Ruben Galindo. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Several said CMPD needs more Spanish-speaking officers and better relations with Latinos. People in the community believe language barriers and misunderstandings contributed to police shooting Galindo, said Hector Vaca, a local Latino advocate who is helping Galindo’s family.

But CMPD said in a statement Friday: “There was never a language barrier during the 911 call. There was a communication barrier during the conversation between Mr. Galindo and the Spanish-speaking interpreter due to Mr. Galindo’s demeanor and vague responses.”

During that call, Galindo was told to meet officers outside his house to turn over the gun, his wife said in a recorded interview with Vaca. He provided that interview to The Charlotte Observer.

In the recording, Zamoraro gave her version of what happened around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, when Galindo was killed. She also spoke at the vigil. Some of the details conflict with information provided by police, such as the conditions under which Galindo was shot.

The shooting remains under investigation and two officers have been placed on leave, as is protocol for officer-involved shootings.

’They killed him’

Confusion arose on the 911 call because Galindo would not answer “numerous questions” about what he intended to do with the gun, said police spokesman Rob Tufano. Both police and Galindo’s wife say he had been drinking alcohol that night.

“Detectives are still working to determine what Mr. Galindo’s intention was in calling 911,” Tufano said.

Jaqueline Guerra, a friend with whom Galindo’s family lives, said Galindo wanted to surrender the gun because he was “a little nervous” over a scheduled appearance in Mecklenburg Criminal Court on Monday. He faced a misdemeanor charge of assault by pointing a gun from an April 12 incident, court records show.

By handing over the gun, he hoped he wouldn’t be deported, Guerra said.

Galindo told the 911 operator before officers arrived that the gun had no bullets, Zamoraro said.

Tufano said Galindo was advised to put the gun in a safe place and to show his hands to police upon their arrival.

“His demeanor and vague responses made it difficult for the Spanish-speaking interpreter to determine what specific issue he was calling 911 in reference to,” Tufano said. “Responding officers who arrived on the scene repeatedly instructed Mr. Galindo to show them his hands and drop the weapon. Some of those commands were communicated in Spanish.”

Officers say they saw Galindo’s hands in his waistband, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said. Police say they opened fire after Galindo failed to follow commands to raise both hands. “At some point, one of his hands is raised,” the chief said. “They see a weapon, a handgun. They perceive a lethal threat that’s imminent, and at least two officers we believe right now fired their weapons.”

Zamoraro said Galindo was killed as he was exiting the rear patio of their apartment to meet with officers. She believes he was still on the phone with a 911 operator as he entered the patio area.

It was Galindo’s second trip to the patio area in an attempt to meet with officers, Zamoraro said. Once before, he was told to step outside and meet with officers but saw no one so he returned inside, she said.

Then, she said, a dispatcher called back and told him the police were at the apartment, waiting for him to walk outside. Her husband was following dispatch instructions, she said.

Zamoraro said in Spanish: “When he went outside is when they shot him and they killed him. Without even allowing him the chance to explain anything.”

While police said Friday there was no “language barrier,” an earlier comment from Putney indicated there was a language issue between Galindo and people responding to his call.

Dual investigations

Following the shooting, Officers Courtney Suggs and David Guerra were put on administrative leave. Suggs has worked for CMPD since December 2014 and Guerra since April 2013, police said. The gun police say Galindo was holding was recovered at the scene.

When a person is shot by police, two investigations begin as part of standard procedure. The shooting will be investigated like any other shooting in Charlotte, and CMPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau will also hold an internal investigation to see if officers followed department policy and procedures.

Friday’s vigil for Galindo included calls for police to release body-cam video footage and audio recordings of the shooting and the 911 call.

Tufano said the department will petition in court for the public release of body camera footage of the shooting, though he said it’s too early to say when that will happen.

Galindo’s family and children were intimidated and scared by police pointing guns at them inside their home following the shooting, both Vaca and Zamoraro said Friday.

Officers quickly entered the home, with service weapons still drawn, Tufano said, because they needed to ensure there were no threats to bystanders or police. The tactics used, he said, are standard strategic methods and officers are required to draw their guns during the “sweep” of the home.

Anna Douglas: 704-358-5078, @ADouglasNews