Crime & Courts

Before CMPD shot, killed man, he told 911: ‘I don’t have bullets. I don’t have bullets.’

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.

Recordings of 911 calls and police radio traffic that were released Thursday reveal new details in the fatal shooting by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police of 29-year-old Rueben Galindo outside his northeast Charlotte apartment building on Sept. 6.

On that night, 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 a vigil Sept. 8, Galindo’s family and friends said he 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.

At one point on a 911 recording, Galindo, speaking calmly in Spanish, says, “I don’t have bullets. I don’t have bullets. I don’t have bullets. I don’t have bullets.”

In the recordings released by CMPD, a 911 dispatcher tells police that a Spanish-speaking man called 911 “saying he’s armed with a gun and wants officers to come help him. He refuses to give interpreters further information. It’s unknown what he wants to do with the gun. Unknown if he’s suicidal. He’s not really cooperating.”

Police also released Galindo’s call to 911. When the dispatcher asks whether he needs police, fire or Medic, he replies: “Somebody who can speak Spanish.”

In the conversation between Galindo and the interpreter, Galindo is asked, Do you have a weapon?”

“Yes,” Galindo replies.

“Where do you have the weapon?”

“In my bag,” Galindo says. “If you want, I can take it out.” (He then says something inaudible about his hands.)

The interpreter says: “Yes. yes, please. Can you leave it in a safe spot in the house. I don’t know where you can leave it, just somewhere safe. When the officers arrive, please show them your hands. OK? I don't want you with a weapon.”

“OK,” Galindo responds. “Are they on their way or what?”

They’re on their way, sir,” the interpreter says.

Galindo keeps asking where the officers are, and the dispatcher responds they are on the way, adding, “They are there to help you.”

“I don’t have bullets. I don’t have bullets. I don’t have bullets. I don’t have bullets.”

“OK, sir, I understand you’re saying that.”

“I don't have bullets. I am telling you sincerely and clearly that I don’t have bullets.”

In a clip of police radio traffic, a dispatcher says, “He says he still has a gun on him... He’s saying he doesn’t have any bullets in it, but he says he still has a gun on him and doesn’t want to set it down anywhere else. It appears he’s inside because he’s opening doors.”

“10-4,” an officer replies. “We’re outside of the apartment, the side of the building facing the road.”

In response to another officer calling in, the dispatcher says the armed man is still on the line and that he doesn’t want to set the gun down.

“Shot fired, shot fired,” an officer is then heard saying on the police radio traffic. “Suspect down.”

Police have said they recovered Galindo’s handgun but have not stated whether it had any bullets in it.

In all, CMPD released nine audio recordings related to the shooting, including a neighbor’s frantic 911 call reporting gunfire. “Sounds like somebody shooting next door,” the man said. “I heard something go boom, boom, and some Mexicans screaming and yelling, two shots like bang, bang, and people outside screaming.”

Officers David Guerra and Courtney Suggs were put on administrative leave, as is standard procedure. When a person is shot by police, two investigations begin. The shooting will be investigated like any other shooting in Charlotte, and CMPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau will also run an investigation to see if officers followed department policy and procedures.

CMPD said the 911 recordings were edited, as required by state statute, to change each caller’s voice and remove personal information such as name, address and telephone number. The radio traffic recordings also were edited to remove any name, address or phone number related to this case and unrelated radio traffic.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

To hear the tapes

Go to http://www.charlottenc.gov/newsroom/releases/Pages/CMPD_Releases_OIS_audio-Galindo.aspx

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