Parole officer charged with felony in May 2017 shooting
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – An 11-year police veteran faces up to 15 years in prison, after Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill charged him with aggravated assault for shooting a man in May 2017.
Parole agent Andrew O’Gwin shot his parolee, Joe Gomez three times at the intersection of 4500 South and Main streets.
O’Gwin was on assignment for the Metro Gang Unit the night of May 13, 2017. Around 12:30 a.m., O’Gwin was stopped at the light waiting to take a left turn when he said another car approached quickly and stopped next to him in the other turn lane.
O’Gwin told investigators Gomez got out of the passenger seat of the car and started pounding on O’Gwin’s window while yelling. Police reports show neither O’Gwin nor Gomez immediately recognized each other that night, although both had spoken on the phone to each other earlier that evening. O’Gwin had been checking Gomez’s address and left a business card for Gomez to call to confirm it. O’Gwin’s partner told the Board of Pardons and Parole the conversation was pleasant, back in a November parole hearing for Gomez.
Witness testimony at a March trial though contradicts some of O’Gwin’s statements to investigators.
A March trial against Gomez raised questions about O’Gwin’s statements to police.
Defense attorney Karra Porter said, “I think that a story was made up to try to justify it.”
Porter told media outlets in a press conference Monday, the facts from that night don’t add up. She pointed to witness testimony from Gomez’s March disorderly conduct trial.
Witness Nicholas Summerhays had stopped behind O’Gwin and Gomez before the shooting happened that night. He said he saw Gomez exit the car, “He took about a step or two, it wasn’t really a fast movement, it was slow.”
Summerhays told the Murray City Prosecutor something was wrong.
“I’m about to see a street fight,” Summerhays said.
But Summerhays said he didn’t see a fight. He said Gomez had his hands up halfway. Porter said Gomez was trying to brush off hot cigarette ash.
“I think what Joe did was what anyone would do that had hot ash in their lap, he got out to brush off hot ash,” said Porter.
O’Gwin told investigators Gomez attacked his car hitting it at least three times. But Summerhays said he didn’t see that.
Summerhays said, “No, never touched it.”
Summerhays testified he saw glass explode at Gomez as O’Gwin fired five times.
“It was really quick, I saw some spray come out of the window,” Summerhays said.
O’Gwin hit Gomez three times. Gomez survived. O’Gwin was called to the stand in Gomez’s disorderly conduct trial last month, but did not testify.
“I invoke my fifth amendment right,” said O’Gwin in the trial before being allowed to step down.
The judge found Gomez guilty of disorderly conduct and fined him $100. Gomez is appealing and Porter hinted at a possible lawsuit against the state.
O’Gwin’s boss, Department of Corrections Executive Director Rollin Cook, said the department stands by O’Gwin and does not agree with the DA’s determination in the case. O’Gwin’s attorney Jeremy Jones said they will fight these charges and believe they are politically motivated.
“What these charges particularly tell me is that this is a DA that doesn’t particularly believe that law enforcement officers don’t believe in deadly force in the course of their jobs,” Jones said.
Jones also said they are concerned with the time it took to issue the charges against O’Gwin and believes his client is innocent.