An Arapahoe County sheriff's deputy was justified in shooting a man whom authorities caught in a stolen vehicle at an east Centennial-area apartment complex, a report by the district attorney's office says.
Undercover vehicles with the sheriff's office and the East Metro Auto Theft Task Force — a partnership of local law enforcement agencies — responded to the Cornerstone Ranch Apartments at about 5 p.m. Jan. 22 near East Arapahoe and South Parker roads, according to the report dated June 8.
When deputies approached Diego Gallegos, who was sitting in a stolen Chevrolet Silverado, Gallegos attempted to drive into deputies' truck to escape, the report says. He then drove backward, pinning Deputy Alan Wilson between the Silverado and a Ford Escape parked in the adjacent space, the report says.
“I find that Deputy Trevor Cuaz legally and justifiably shot Diego Gallegos based on his reasonable fear that Diego Gallegos posed an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to Deputy Alan Wilson and himself,” Jason Siers, chief deputy district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, wrote in the report. The district includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties.
Gallegos, who was 22 at the time, told investigators he did not know that he hit a deputy and that he felt bad about it, expressing remorse for the trouble he caused, the report says.
“During the interview, Mr. Gallegos pointed to where he was shot in the arm and said that he may have earned that,” the report says.
The incident began at about 3:20 p.m. on Jan. 22 when deputies located a stolen Dodge Ram abandoned on the median of Arapahoe Road near South Nome Street, according to the report. Based on witness descriptions of three individuals associated with the vehicle, deputies contacted and arrested Jorge Jaime-Baez, Jose Munoz-Valdes and Alexis Ruder-Iturrino, who was 24 at the time, attempting to leave the area in a taxi, the report says.
Ruder-Iturrino told deputies that Gallegos sold them the Ram and that they knew it was stolen, the report says. She and Jaime-Baez still owed Gallegos money for the vehicle, and Gallegos was going to her apartment later that evening, Ruder-Iturrino told authorities.
She further told them Gallegos steals trucks, sells methamphetamines and carries a 9mm handgun. Ruder-Iturrino cooperated with deputies, communicating with Gallegos to arrange the meeting at her apartment.
Three sheriff's personnel arrived at the apartment complex. Deputy Wilson was armed with an AR-15, the report says.
Gallegos arrived at about 7:40 p.m. in the stolen Silverado, and soon after, the deputies' car activated its emergency lights and blocked the Silverado with its front bumper, the report says. When Wilson and Cuaz got out and approached Gallegos, he accelerated into the deputies' vehicle, trying to force past it. Wilson ordered Gallegos to stop and show his hands. A person in the Silverado's front passenger seat fled the vehicle, according to the report.
Gallegos drove backward over the curb onto a grassy area, according to the report — and as he did, he pinned Wilson against a Ford Escape in the adjacent parking space. Sgt. Todd Fechner, who was also on scene, feared Wilson would be run over and saw Wilson fall to the ground, the report adds.
Cuaz ran after the Silverado onto the grassy area and was armed with a Glock 34 9mm, according to the report.
Gallegos, driving backward, crashed into two electrical boxes and then drove forward. Cuaz fired at Gallegos as the truck accelerated toward him and Wilson. After being shot, Gallegos crashed into nearby vehicles, according to the report. Cuaz fired eight rounds at Gallegos, the report says.
Wilson suffered a torn labrum in his hip, which may require surgery in the future, the report says. Wilson told investigators he was dragged along the car and thought he was going to die. Cuaz felt running into Wilson might have been intentional, the report says.
Wilson was wearing his body camera but did not turn it on until after the Silverado crashed. Wilson did not fire his weapon, the report says.
Cuaz was not wearing his body camera during the shooting because the battery was dead, he told investigators.
Gallegos sustained three gunshot wounds: from a bullet traveling across his hairline, a bullet penetrating his right pectoral area and a bullet penetrating his left arm.
Gallegos was treated and released from the hospital and is currently in the Arapahoe County jail, the report says. He was charged with first- and second-degree assault, vehicular eluding and aggravated motor vehicle theft.
Authorities searched the Silverado on Jan. 31, finding four pills stamped “M-30,” the report says. Investigators searched a pink wallet and found one “M-30” pill, white crystal substance and white powder in a baggie. They also found glass pipes, another baggie with white powder residue, and capsules filled with white powder.
Gallegos was on probation for theft, carrying a concealed weapon and aggravated motor vehicle theft during the incident, according to the report.
No firearms were found in the Silverado, the report says. Gallegos claimed he did not steal the Silverado.
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