SALT LAKE CITY — A parole officer who was criminally charged for shooting a man at a Main Street intersection last year now faces a civil rights lawsuit in federal court.
Joseph A. Gomez claims Andrew O’Gwin, an Adult Probation and Parole officer, shot him without justification and made up a story to bring criminal charges and other allegations against him.
O’Gwin’s actions were malicious and reckless showed a callous indifference to Gomez’s life, according to the lawsuit.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill found in April that O’Gwin was not legally justified in shooting Gomez. He charged O’Gwin with aggravated assault, a second-degree felony, in 3rd District Court, saying the evidence does not match the officer’s version of events.
On May 13, 2017, O’Gwin was stopped in an unmarked police car at the intersection of 4500 S. Main waiting to make a turn when he said Gomez “hopped out of the vehicle, threw something at my window … and he hit my vehicle again. I drew my weapon” and fired, charging documents say.
O’Gwin told investigators that Gomez punched the driver’s side window and struck his car driver’s side window as “hard as he could” with an “object” in his hand three times.
O’Gwin fired five rounds, hitting Gomez three times in the chest, torso and arm. Gomez survived the shooting. O’Gwin, who had been assigned as Gomez’s parole officer a month earlier, apparently didn’t recognize him before the shooting.
According to the lawsuit, Gomez was smoking a cigarette in the passenger side of a car when ash dropped into his lap. To avoid getting burned, the lawsuit says, Gomez, who was unarmed, stepped out of the car to let the ash drop to the ground.
Gomez did not throw anything or beat on O’Gwin’s window, the lawsuit says.
Utah Department of Corrections Executive Director Rollin Cook said in April the department stands behind O’Gwin and questions Gill’s conclusion.
Gomez, who had recently been released from prison, was sent back for an alleged parole violation as authorities assumed that assault charges would be filed against him, defense attorney Karra Porter said in April. He was released from prison about seven months later when no charges were filed.
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified dollar amount for damages.