Utah parole agent charged in non-fatal shooting of parolee
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah state parole agent was charged Monday with aggravated assault in a non-fatal shooting of a parolee at a stop light last year.
Andrew O’Gwin, 38, was unjustified when he fired five times at Joe Alvin Gomez around midnight on May 14, 2017, the Salt Lake County Attorney’s Office said in a news release. Gomez survived after being shot three times in the midsection.
The shooting occurred in the Salt Lake City suburb of Murray after Gomez approached the driver side window of O’Gwin’s car and was raising his arms angrily while the two vehicles were stopped at a red light, according to information from two witnesses included in charged documents.
It’s unclear what led to the confrontation, and different people gave different accounts of what happened.
O’Gwin told investigators that Gomez punched the driver’s side window with force three times and appeared to have an object in his hand. He was on duty assisting other officers in an unmarked car typical of a parole agent. O’Gwin, who supervises gang members in his job as an adult probation and parole agent with the Utah Department of Corrections, feared for his life because he thought Gomez was a gang member or may have been coming after him on behalf of a gang member, prosecutors said.
“By the time the third hit happened, I just remembered I was pulling my trigger,” O’Gwin told investigators.
Prosecutors said O’Gwin’s account of what happened doesn’t match witness testimony or physical evidence. None of the witnesses saw Gomez hit O’Gwin’s car, and there were no injuries to Gomez’ hands or forearms and no damage to the car window prior to the shooting, prosecutors said.
Investigators say neither man recognized the other during the encounter even though O’Gwin was assigned to supervise Gomez, who had recently been paroled from prison. They spoke by phone earlier that day, with both telling investigators it was a cordial conversation.
Gomez told investigators he never confronted O’Gwin or hit his car and denied having a weapon. He said he was shot after he got out of his car to brush off a burning cigarette from his pants.
Utah Department of Corrections Executive Director Rollin Cook said he supports O’Gwin based on what he knows about the incident.
O’Gwin has been on paid administrative leave since the May 2017 shooting, Cook said, adding that the length of the investigation has been frustrating. The agency is starting an internal probe now that the criminal investigation is complete.
No attorney was listed in court documents for O’Gwin. A phone number listed for him was out of service.
Attorney Karra Porter, who is representing Gomez, said her client still has only limited use of his arm and said his vision was affected by glass that that lodged in his eye. He was also sent back to prison for months after the shooting, and wasn’t released until January 2018, she said.
Associated Press writer Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this report.