Interview shows officer’s view of shooting

From Salem Statesman Journal, August 3, 2008

Inability to see suspect’s hands, sound of glass, sudden lunge were top factors

Silverton Police Officer Tony Gonzalez couldn’t see the burglary suspect’s hands.

Gonzalez had confronted the man on a poorly lit section of Oak Street. The officer drew his gun when he thought he heard a bottle break. He was worried the man might cut or stab him.

Now the man was lunging at him, and Gonzalez wanted to put away his gun, but he couldn’t see the man’s hands. He couldn’t see whether the suspect might be armed.

“I thought ‘I need to holster and grab a Taser,’ and I knew I didn’t have time,” Gonzalez told investigators. “I thought about holstering it, but I didn’t want him to grab my hand with the gun in my hand. I even thought about tossing it and going hands-on, but I couldn’t see his hands.”

The man was too close for Gonzalez to do anything but shoot.

Seconds later, Gonzalez had fired five bullets into 20-year-old Andrew James Hanlon, killing the Irish citizen. The suspect was unarmed.

Police and prosecutors have released the video recording of a formal interview detectives held with Gonzalez three days after the fatal June 30 shooting.

Also released were more than 240 pages of witness interviews and police reports related to the shooting and its subsequent investigation. The reports are the work of eight police agencies and 30 officers during 21/2 weeks after the shooting.

Based on the investigation, a Marion County grand jury unanimously found on July 24 that Gonzalez acted lawfully when he shot Hanlon.

The recorded interview with Gonzalez was part of the evidence reviewed by the grand jury.

The interview lasted nearly two hours. Gonzalez broke down crying as he recounted the shooting in his own words, but later regained his composure and answered detectives’ questions in a calm and subdued voice.

“He just … he came so [expletive] quick,” Gonzalez said, choking back tears. “He just [expletive] came so [expletive] fast. I don’t even remember putting my [expletive] finger on the trigger. I just remembered hearing shots. And he kept coming. He kept coming. And by the time he dropped, he was on the street.”

Gonzalez currently is being held in the Linn County jail on unrelated sex-abuse charges that surfaced after the shooting. His next court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 8.

His interview regarding the shooting took place July 3 at Marion County Sheriff’s Central District Office and was conducted by Marion County Detective Michael Beach and Keizer Detective Vaughn Edsall.

Gonzalez said he was in the office of Silverton Police Department, eating string cheese and reading an online law enforcement article, when about 11:18 p.m. he received a report of a burglary in progress from dispatchers.

The dispatchers told him the suspect did not appear to have any weapons, but may be intoxicated.

“When I came to the scene, I didn’t think he was armed,” Gonzalez told the detectives. “That was my frame of mind. He’s probably not armed, he’s probably going to run, and I’m going to have to run after him and grab him.”

Gonzalez did not know it, but Hanlon had been howling and banging at the door of 224 Digerness St., demanding to be let in and scaring the family inside. By the time the officer arrived, Hanlon had shambled off, stumbling down a wooded hill toward Oak Street.

Gonzalez drove up Digerness Street and looked around but did not see anyone. He then remembered dispatchers mentioning that the suspect had gone down the hill, so he turned his patrol car around and headed for Oak Street.

The officer parked at the corner of Oak and Mill streets, got out of his car and watched the dark and wooded hill leading up to Digerness Street.

“It was dark. I didn’t turn my flashlight on. And I’m just listening,” Gonzalez said. “And I could hear trees rustling, and I couldn’t tell where it was coming from.”

He went on the radio to report that he thought the suspect was in the trees. Then he saw some movement and, shining his flashlight, identified himself and ordered the man to come out and show his hands.

The man emerged from the trees with his hands raised and flopping around.

“Maybe that was from him walking down the steep hill, his hands were jerking,” Gonzalez said. He was dressed exactly the same as the burglary suspect, in a brown sweater and khaki pants.

The suspect had come out next to a house at 606 Oak Street, in front of which stood a row of parked cars. The man walked over to the cars and suddenly ducked behind one, Gonzalez said.

“When he disappeared, I heard a bottle break,” Gonzalez said. “I withdrew my gun because I heard the bottle break.”

The officer had drawn a Glock .22, his own personal gun. He held it down in his right hand, with his flashlight in his left hand.

“When I heard the glass, I was like, man, do I really need to pull my gun out? It’s like, that’s what I was trained to do,” he said. “A 240-pound guy, I can handle myself.”

Gonzalez approached, but stayed on the other end of the row of cars to give himself space.

“I had pictured somebody shoving an [expletive] bottle in [expletive] in my neck or something,” he said. “That was what was going through my head.”

The suspect then stood up at the far end of the cars, 5 to 7 feet away, but stood in profile. Gonzalez couldn’t see his left hand.

Gonzalez ordered the man to the ground multiple times.

“He looked like he was sizing me up,” the officer said. “So I started yelling again, trying to break his train of thought.”

The suspect muttered “OK,” and bent down as though he was going to comply, Gonzalez said. He touched the ground with his hands, stood, then crouched again.

And then the man leapt at Gonzalez.

“He started flailing and coming right at me, and it was like, what the [expletive] are you doing?” Gonzalez told investigators. “I just remember backing up and he was just, [expletive], he was just [expletive] flying. He closed that gap so [expletive] quick.”

Gonzalez started backpedaling and firing point-blank at the suspect. He told investigators that he never sighted his gun.

“I think I started shooting somewhere in between the cars, and I kept firing until he stopped,” Gonzalez said. “He just wouldn’t stop. He was so quick.”

The suspect fell dead in the street. Gonzalez’s ears were ringing from the shots. He called in for help, reporting shots fired, then donned latex gloves to take a closer look at the man.

“I seen a bulging in his sweatshirt and I thought it was like the tip of a gun and I went to touch it and it felt like an [expletive] round,” he said. “At that point I think I lost it.

“Some guy came out. He was saying something. I had no idea what he was saying. I don’t even remember what I was saying. I couldn’t believe what just happened. I didn’t want to shoot anybody. I came to the call thinking maybe I’d have to chase somebody.”

On the day of the interview, three days after the shooting, Gonzalez said he believed Hanlon had been armed with a broken bottle.

He also said had it been daytime, he would have left his gun in the holster.

“In the daytime, we would have connected,” Gonzalez said. “I would have roughed him up, and I would have dropped him on his back. I know I’m capable of that. I can probably take almost anybody to the ground. I’ve been wrestling since I was 6 years old. I know how to take somebody down. It’s not a problem for me.

“What was scaring me was I couldn’t see his hands, and the bottle that was broken. I didn’t want to get stabbed. I didn’t want to get cut.”

Investigators found no broken glass, but did find a red recycling bin with two empty bottles inside. They believe Hanlon kicked or bumped the bin, causing a clink that Gonzalez interpreted as a bottle breaking.

But Hanlon’s body had fallen with his hands tucked underneath. Gonzalez hadn’t moved the body.

“When was the first time you were able to see his left hand?” one of the detectives asked.

“Even when he was on the ground, I didn’t see his hands,” Gonzalez said. “He was lying on them.”

EXTRA – Cop who shot Irishman and was charged with sex crimes resigns,, August 5 2008
EXTRA – Family skeptical of report – Shooting of Andrew Hanlon ruled as justified use of force, Silverton Appeal, July 30 2008