Charlotte, NC – A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer acted lawfully when he shot and killed an armed man on Sep. 6, and will face no charges, The Mecklenburg County District Attorney announced on Friday.
Just before 9:30 pm on Sep. 6, Rueben Galindo, 29, called 911 and told a “Spanish language interpreter” that he had a gun in his hand and wanted to “turn himself in.”
Galindo also told the dispatcher his name was “El Dios Estrella,” (The Sun God), and admitted had been drinking alcohol.
As officers responded to the scene, the dispatcher repeatedly instructed Galindo to put the weapon down in a “safe place,” but he refused.
“I don’t have bullets,” he said multiple times.
The dispatcher told Galindo that when officers arrived, he needed to show them his hands. Galindo continued to refuse her instructions to put his weapon down.
“How will I leave it if I don’t know where it is?” he asked the dispatcher.
CMPD officers decided to approach the residence from multiple directions, “just in case he did decide to maybe ambush and start shooting as we pulled up,” Officer Ryan Tran-Thompson said.
When Officer Guerra arrived at the apartment complex, he called out to Galindo in Spanish. Galindo opened the door to the unit and the two made eye contact, Officer Guerra said.
Galindo then pulled a handgun out of his left pocket, the officers said.
Officer Guerra told investigators that the gun was metallic and “gripped high in the palm of the subject’s hand, the webbing, his fingers were wrapped around the pistol grip just as we’re training in the Academy or anyone who’s about to fire a pistol.”
The officers yelled at Galindo, in English, repeatedly commanding that he drop the gun.
Officer Guerra said he then saw Galindo raise the firearm in his direction.
“I didn’t know if it was loaded or not but...I recognized immediately as a firearm and it was pointed at me,” Officer Guerra told investigators.
Officer Guerra fired two rounds at Galindo, fatally shooting him in the head and chest.
The medical examiner determined Galindo had a blood alcohol concentration of .23 at the time of his death, the District Attorney’s report said.
He had also been treated for “paranoid ideations” and “unspecified psychosis” in the month prior to his encounter with CMPD, but did not follow the treatment provider’s recommendations for further mental health treatment.
“In this case, the evidence clearly supports the conclusion that Officer Guerra was facing a mentally unstable, impaired individual armed with a gun and that Galindo failed to properly comply with commands,” the District Attorney’s report concluded.
Action North Carolina activist Hector Vaca disagrees with the District Attorney’s decision to not file charges against Officer Guerra, however.
After viewing bodycam footage of CMPD’s encounter with Galindo, Vaca described Galindo’s death as “horrific,” and called on city leaders to provide justice to the dead man’s family, the Charlotte Observer reported.
“We have a man who had his hands up for a full four or five seconds before police shot him,” Vaca said. “It is obvious he was complying with directives from police. What we need now is justice. We need CMPD to take responsibility for their officers’ actions.”
Whether or not Vaca realized that Galindo had a handgun in his extended, raised left hand is unknown.
Vaca also questioned the effectiveness of the CMPD 911 dispatch center.
"The second 911 caller operator didn't sound like she had the strongest command of the Spanish language and didn't do a good job of explaining things fully to Rueben, so that right there contributed to any confusion there may have been on those calls," Vaca told WBTV.
Recordings of Galindo’s conversations with the Spanish-speaking 911 dispatcher have been released by CMPD.
Transcripts of these calls, contained in the District Attorney’s report, do not indicate a lack of understanding between Galindo and the 911 dispatcher.
Vaca also told WBTV that the shooting wasn't justifiable because Officer Guerra spoke English when issuing orders to drop the gun.
Officer Guerra and Officer Courtney Suggs are currently on paid administrative assignment pending the outcome of an internal investigation, CMPD said.