Thursday, May 12, 2011
Shooting Was Police Officer's Third
By Astrid Galvan
Copyright © 2011 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer
The shooting of an Albuquerque man earlier this week wasn't the first in the line of duty by police officer Sean Wallace. It was the third, with two fatalities.
Wallace, now a K-9 officer with APD, was a State Police officer when he shot and killed a Chimayó man in 2004. He was cleared by a grand jury, but the state paid $235,000 to settle a wrongful death lawsuit.
Police say Wallace shot Alan Gomez, 22, on Tuesday morning after Gomez allegedly held his brother and his brother's girlfriend against their will at a house on the 2800 block of Madison NE.
Police had received reports Gomez was armed and had fired a rifle, but he came out to talk to officers and was holding only a black plastic spoon when shot while walking back inside the house. In another incident early last year, Wallace shot a man on a roof during a SWAT standoff.
None of the three men Wallace shot was carrying a weapon — although police said they thought the suspect had a weapon in two cases and tried to run down officers with a car in the other.
"That's not uncommon that he's had two shootings (with APD)," spokeswoman Sgt. Trish Hoffman said of Wallace. "He's in tactical, and part of his training is to deal with high-risk situations. Both of the shootings he was involved in were high risk."
Eric Gomez, Alan's brother, said Wednesday he didn't feel he was a prisoner in the house. Police said Eric's girlfriend called 911.
Eric Gomez said his brother didn't want to hurt anyone and was not his "normal self."
"It was just hard seeing my brother in that state of mind," Eric Gomez said. "He was really paranoid and hallucinating and thinking people were after him and that his family was against him. We were never against him. We were always with him."
The youngest of three siblings, Alan was caring and funny, a person who "told it like it was," his brother said.
Eric said his brother began acting erratically this week but had not ever been diagnosed with a mental illness.
On Tuesday, officers were dispatched to the home after Eric's girlfriend reported that Alan had a gun and that she was being held inside, according to the initial 911 call provided by police. In the call, the woman, who identified herself as "Jolene," is heard whispering to a dispatcher that Alan "won't let us move."
The woman told the dispatcher she didn't know what was wrong with Alan and asked her to "please hurry."
Police also received reports that Gomez had stepped outside and fired a gun at least twice before they arrived.
Police Chief Ray Schultz said officers arrived at the house at 3:18 a.m.
After about 45 minutes of trying to get Gomez to come outside with his hands empty, he finally came out, Schultz said.
But he was carrying an unidentified object. Police could not tell it was a spoon, Schultz said. When he turned around and started walking back inside, Wallace fired his rifle once from across the street.
Police later found a rifle in a closet at the house and said Gomez had taken it with him to the residence.
The shooting was the third for APD this year.
Wallace first shot a civilian as a State Police narcotics agent on September 22, 2004 in Chimayó, according to Journal archives.
Wallace was working a drug sting operation targeting 44-year-old Leo Lopez, who was believed to be key figure in the drug trade. About an hour after authorities bought heroin from Lopez in an undercover sting, State Police pulled him over.
According to police reports, that's when Lopez, who was unarmed, allegedly started driving toward Wallace. Wallace told investigators Lopez "pretty much let me know that he was not going to prison and that it was either him or me, and that's pretty much I felt, that he wanted, that he had dictated to me what I had to do. ... He left me with no other choice."
A grand jury cleared Wallace, but the Lopez family filed a wrongful death suit against him and the Department of Public Safety. The state paid the family $235,000 to drop its lawsuit.
Wallace transferred to APD in 2007, Schultz said. A State Police spokesman said Wallace left in good standing.
Wallace is a K-9 officer, which makes him part of the tactical team that works closely with SWAT.
Early last year, Wallace shot and wounded a man who was standing on the roof of a home on Constitution NE during a standoff with SWAT. Wayne Cordova, who was 22 at the time, was suspected of fleeing from police through the Sandia High School parking lot after allegedly stealing a car. He refused to show his hands and come down, police said.
Based on prior reports and his movements, police believed Cordova had a gun. Wallace told an investigator he never actually saw the weapon but thought his life and that of his fellow officers was in danger when he fired one shot. Police found Cordova had been unarmed all along.
A Bernalillo County grand jury cleared Wallace of any wrongdoing this March.
Cordova was charged with two counts of resisting, evading or obstructing an officer, aggravated burglary, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, and other charges. He pleaded guilty to four of those charges in March, according to online court records. Those charges are aggravated burglary, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, burglary and possession of burglary tools.