An investigation by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office into the fatal police shooting of Agustin Gonsalez last November concluded that officers were justified in their actions, and that the victim may have wanted police to kill him.
Gonsalez, a 29-year-old resident of Lathrop with a history of mental illness, allegedly carried a knife when Hayward police confronted him on the 2400 block of Oneil Avenue. After veteran Officer Phillip Wooley repeatedly but unsuccessfully told Gonsalez to drop the knife, he fired his service weapon nine times at Gonsalez. Officer Michael Clark fired his weapon three additional times. Another officer, Sgt. Tasha DeCosta said she was unable to quickly communicate her assessment that Gonsalez appeared intent on getting police to kill him the two other officers.
“The credible and admissible evidence shows that Officers Wooley and Clark acted in what they actually and reasonably believed to be self-defense and defense of others,” the DA’s office concluded. “The examined evidence does not support the contention that the shooting of Mr. Gonsalez was criminal.” [READ THE FULL REPORT BELOW]
Investigators described Gonsalez as being suicidal over a recent break up, including a text message sent roughly five hours before his death. “I’ve surrendered myself to the devil and gave in. I don’t care if I look like a coward, but now everyone needs to suffer like I have. … I’m sorry to everyone buy you are to blame to this. … I’m dead inside so I’m not sorry for the outcome.”
Gonsalez, according to the video, also appeared to his family and friends to be placing his wrists together as if to be handcuffed. In the report Wooley told investigators that despite instructing Gonsalez to “drop the knife,” the suspect continued to walk towards him, leading him to fear that Gonsalez would stab him. Wooley also told investigators that he chose not to use a Taser fearing if the weapon did not stop Gonsalez he would not have enough time to protect himself with his gun.
But the report, which was released by the DA to the city on May 13, also casts doubt over whether the knife or blade was actually in his possession when confronted by police.
Wooley told investigators that he saw a glimpse of what he believed was a blade of some type, but initially viewed the “low ready” stance made by Gonsalez to be a position made by someone before shooting a gun. Clark told investigators that he saw Gonsalez holding a “grayish metal four inch box cutter.” According to the report, “When shown a photo of a razor blade recovered at the scene, Officer Clark said he did not recognize that as being at the scene.”
DeCosta told investigators that she was not in a position to see Gonsalez’s hands at the time of the shooting. Video evidence of whether Gonsalez had an object in his hands were inconclusive, the report found. But a witness recounted that Gonsalez had a razor blade before police had arrived on the scene as was swinging it around and acting like he was trying to cut himself.
Video of the shooting captured by Wooley’s body worn camera showed that only seven seconds transpired from the time he exited his vehicle until when he discharged his weapon. The timing has been a topic of great concern by Gonsalez’s family, who along with friends, and police accountability activists have called on city officials to open an independent investigation of the incident.
“The loss of life of Agustin Gonsalez is a tragedy, and our hearts go out to his family and all those affected,” the Hayward Police Department said in a statement Tuesday, but declined further comment due to an ongoing Internal Affairs investigation into the matter and a pending lawsuit filed by the Gonsalez family.