Man pointed gun at CMPD officer moments before he was killed, attorney says

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 29-year-old man who was fatally shot Wednesday night by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg policeman pointed a handgun at that officer just before he was killed, says an attorney representing the officer.

Rueben Galindo was killed outside his northeast Charlotte apartment building.

“He pointed the gun directly at Officer (David) Guerra,” George Laughrun said Saturday in an interview with The Charlotte Observer. He represents Guerra.

Guerra used Spanish to tell Galindo to drop his gun and show his hands before he was killed, Laughrun said. Galindo did not follow those orders, Laughrun said.

Spanish is Galindo’s native language. Guerra speaks Spanish but is not fluent, Laughrun said.

Laughrun’s details add new information to what police have previously said about the incident.

On the night of the shooting, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said officers perceived an imminent lethal threat and saw Galindo with a gun despite having been told to drop it. At the time, Putney did not say whether Galindo pointed the gun.

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

On Friday, friends and family held a vigil for Galindo, whose wife and five children were inside their home at Hunters Pointe apartments on the night he was shot near their back door.

People at the vigil said Galindo was killed unjustly and that officers were there because he had called 911. Galindo’s family said he wanted to surrender the weapon to police.

But, Laughrun said Galindo failed to follow officers’ commands and he posed an imminent threat by pointing a gun at police.

At the time of the shooting, Galindo was outside the home after leaving through the back door of his apartment and walking through a small patio gate he had opened, Laughrun said. Galindo pulled a gun from his front right pocket and pointed it at Guerra, Laughrun said.

Galindo was holding the gun when he was shot, Laughrun said. Police have said they recovered that gun from the scene.

Putney had previously said Galindo came out of his home with his hands in his waistband. Officers asked him to show his hands, Putney said. Then, officers saw one of Galindo’s hands and also saw a gun, he said.

Although it was around 9:30 p.m. and dark out, officers had visibility from lights in the apartment complex, Laughrun said. All officers there were in standard police uniform, he said.

911 call confusion

Four officers were initially on the scene, according to Laughrun. Police have said Guerra and one other officer fired their service weapons.

Guerra is the one who fired the fatal shot, Laughrun said, and he does not know whether the other officer fired bullets that struck Galindo. Under police protocol, both Guerra and Officer Courtney Suggs are on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated.

Laughrun said he has not yet watched police body-cam video footage from the shooting. The video and audio is part of CMPD’s internal investigation. CMPD officials say they intend to release the video and audio of a 911 call Galindo placed prior to being shot.

Evidence surrounding Galindo’s death, Laughrun said, will show officers repeatedly told Galindo to raise his hands. Initially, Laughrun said, Galindo appeared to understand officers’ commands and shook his head up and down and raised at least one arm.

In his left hand, Galindo was holding a cell phone, Laughrun said. Galindo’s widow, Azucena Zamoraro, has said Galindo was still on the line with 911 when he stepped outside where officers were waiting.

Zamoraro said her husband had been drinking beer and called 911 that night to say he wanted to surrender a gun. She said Galindo told dispatch the gun had no bullets.

But, CMPD said Galindo’s behavior and demeanor on the phone led to 911 operators being unable to determine his intentions with the gun. Police spokesman Rob Tufano said Friday Galindo said he’d been drinking alcohol and gave vague responses to questions from dispatch.

Dispatch confirmed with Galindo his identity and address as officers learned through incident report records that Galindo was awaiting trial on a misdemeanor assault charge for allegedly pointing a gun at someone, Laughrun said.

Details from the prior incident have not yet been released. Galindo was charged on April 12 and a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office told the Observer Friday that prosecutors have asked for the case to be dismissed, due to Galindo’s death.

Laughrun said officers arriving on the scene had information about the prior charge and were told by 911 operators that they’d received a call from a man saying he had a gun. Police have said there was a “communication barrier” with Galindo on the 911 call but that he was speaking to a Spanish interpreter by phone who had advised him to show his hands to officers on the scene and to keep the gun in a safe place.

Anna Douglas: 704-358-5078, @ADouglasNews