Two new lawsuits have been filed against two Austin police officers who in 2021 were involved in the murder of driver Alex Gonzalez Jr. and injuring his girlfriend while their child was in the back seat.
In the moments leading up to the fatal police shooting in southeast Austin, an officer on duty claimed that Gonzalez had a gun pointed at him while driving. This officer, Gabriel Gutierrez, drew his own weapon and shot Gonzalez and his girlfriend.
The police responded and Gonzalez stopped at Wickersham Lane. The scene attendant, Luis Serrato, fatally shot Gonzalez as Gonzalez got out of the car and reached into the back seat for his infant.
There’s a two-year statute of limitations for civil rights lawsuits like this, and the shooting happened exactly two years ago, on a Thursday. Each claim seeks an undisclosed amount of damages for medical expenses, mental anguish, past and future loss of wages and disability.
Last week, the grand jury decided not to indict Gutierrez or Serrato, who responded when Gutierrez called 911. Last week, Serrato’s lawyer released a statement thanking the grand jury for “recognizing that Officer Serrato’s use of force was legally justified in shooting incident. “
Gonzalez’s girlfriend, Jessica Arellano, survived the collision and their child was unharmed.
Arellano sued the city of Austin on Tuesday, as well as Gutierrez and Serrato. Alex Gonzalez’s parents also filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Gutierrez and Serrato, after filing a still pending lawsuit against the city of Austin in July.
“The Austin Police Department is not holding their officers to account, no matter how egregious the shootings may have seemed,” said Scott Handler, who represents Gonzalez’s parents.
The parent and Arellano lawsuits detail other cases where Austin police have shot men of color, including Mike Ramos in 2020 and Rajan Munesinghe in November.
“The shooting by the Austin police seems like an epidemic in proportion to the size of the city compared to other cities of the same size because there is no accountability,” Hendler said. “Officers believe they can fire when it suits them, and there is no real solution… Prosecuting these officers is an important, crucial step in trying to hold them accountable for some of the most indiscriminate firing decisions, especially against non-white men. in Austin.”
After Gonzalez’s death, then police chief Brian Manley recounted what Gutiérrez reported and said that investigators found a gun in Gonzalez’s car.
The January 5, 2021 incident began when Gonzalez cut it hard in southeast Austin, Gutierrez said, Manley said. Gonzalez then stopped next to the duty officer and pointed a firearm at him, while Gutierrez drew his gun and fired several shots at him, Manley said.
The lawsuit alleges that Gutierrez cut Gonzalez and alleges that Gonzalez did not shoot.
This part of the encounter was not captured by police body cameras or vehicle dashboard cameras because Gutiérrez was not in uniform and was not in the police car.
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According to Manley, the duty officer followed Gonzalez down Vickersham Lane until Gonzalez stopped.
Gonzalez’s girlfriend, who was shot by Gutiérrez, fell from the passenger seat to the ground. At this point, Gutiérrez identified himself as a police officer to González, according to an 911 audio recording cited in the parents’ lawsuit.
When the officers arrived and ordered Gutiérrez to stand down, González got out of the car. The rest of the meeting was filmed on video.
The video shows that the police gave several commands so that they moved away from the car and did not reach for anything. Instead, Gonzalez walked around and climbed into the back seat of the car, and Serrato shot him.
The lawsuit alleges that this was normal behavior for the man who had just been shot while his partner and child were in the car and the police should have anticipated this.
“Because Gonzalez received a gunshot wound to the head at close range, his hearing and ability to process what he could hear was most likely impaired, making it unlikely that he could understand the conflicting commands of the officers … Since no one came to the rescue either him or his passengers, Gonzalez headed to the passenger side of the car to get to his injured girlfriend and check if Gutiérrez had shot his child.”