Gilroy police Sgt. Chad Gallacinao and Officer Diana Mora were
placed on administrative leave this week after they fired their
guns Sunday at 31-year-old Kenneth Michael Aguero, who had stolen a
police cruiser and was trying to run down officers. Aguero was not
hit during the incident.
Gilroy police Sgt. Chad Gallacinao and Officer Diana Mora were placed on administrative leave this week after they fired their guns Sunday at 31-year-old Kenneth Michael Aguero, who had stolen a police cruiser and was trying to run down officers. Aguero was not hit during the incident.
Gallacinao is a 15-year law enforcement veteran who has worked for Gilroy Police Department since 1997. Mora has worked for Gilroy Police Department for more than six years. Neither of them had discharged a firearm while on duty with the police department in the past, Sgt. Jim Gillio said.
The officers will not go back on duty until they are ready and until police feel comfortable with their actions based on preliminary investigations, he said.
Administrative investigations are standard any time an officer fires a weapon, Gillio said. He estimated an administrative investigation may be complete within 30 to 60 days, while it could be several weeks before a criminal investigation is complete.
However, both Gallacinao and Mora could be back on duty before the administrative investigation is complete if police interviews do not reveal any obvious sign of illegal activities or problems on their part, Gillio said.
Gallacinao and Mora were among 14 officers who ultimately responded to the incident at Marx Towing, 5757 Obata Way. Towing company staff notified police at 4:43 p.m. that Aguero was forcefully trying to retrieve his 2003 Chevrolet Impala from their tow yard. Mora was an initial responder to the incident, while Gallacinao was called in as backup, Gillio said.
Aguero resisted arrest despite the use of pepper spray, an electronic stun gun, hits from a police baton and gunfire, police said.
Aguero then entered a police cruiser and tried to get at the guns that were locked inside before driving the vehicle in reverse and speeding backwards, almost hitting an officer, police said.
Gallacinao and Mora fired multiple times at Aguero as he tried to get away in the police cruiser, police said. Although they did not hit Aguero, they managed to stop the car, which came to rest in a grassy area across the street from Marx Towing, police said. Police finally arrested Aguero with the help of a canine officer.
Gillio said Tuesday it was unclear what caused the vehicle to stop, and that matter was still being investigated. He said the police cruiser only suffered moderate damage, including bullet holes and damaged rims and tires. The car was booked into evidence, but it will be repaired and placed back into service after the criminal investigation is complete, he said.
Gillio would not reveal which officer’s car Aguero stole until police had interviewed more witnesses. He said the driver of the car immediately jumped out of his vehicle to help other officers who were struggling to subdue Aguero, leaving the door unlocked and the engine running.
It is normal in such an emergency situation for an officer to jump out of the car without locking it or turning it off, Gillio said. By contrast, an officer may lock his or her vehicle while responding to an alarm situation when other people are standing around.
“It was appropriate for the officer to do exactly what did,” Gillio said.
Sgt. Rick Sung of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department said the sheriff’s department’s protocol for handling vehicles also varies by situation. If an officer pulls over a driver or pedestrian at a traffic stop, the officer will want to leave the engine running in case the person decides to speed off, Sung said.
On the other hand, an officer who responds to an incident in an apartment complex probably would want to lock the door and turn off the engine, he said.
“Different situations call for different responses,” he said.
It is unclear whether Aguero was on drugs at the time of the incident, but the Santa Clara County crime lab is conducting a blood test to determine whether he was, Gillio said. Toxicology results will be forwarded on to the district attorney’s office, he said.
Aguero, who is scheduled to be in court at noon Wednesday, remains in Santa Clara County Jail on $500,000 bail. He faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon, willful or malicious harm of a police dog, taking an emergency vehicle while it was on call, and resisting, delaying or obstructing arrest. Aguero may face additional charges depending on what the district attorney decides, Gillio said.
Police are still looking for people who witnessed Sunday evening’s incident. Anyone with information can contact Gillio at 846-0323.
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