Excessive Force Lawsuit May Cost City $900K

The city will consider shelling out $900,000 to settle a lawsuit stemming from an officer-involved shooting that left an alleged gang member dead.

San Jose police say Valente Galindo, 47, aimed a handgun at them when they ran into his home during a 2011 chase, prompting them to fire in self-defense. But the suspected Norteño's DNA and fingerprints were nowhere to be found on the weapon cops say he held.

To avoid what could be a tough battle in court, the city attorney advises the City Council to approve the settlement, according to the Mercury News. The money would go to Galindo's three children. Council members are slated to vote on the issue in August, when they return from summer recess.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office cleared San Jose Police Department Officer Lee Tassio, who filed a bullet that struck Galindo in the chest. But the Galindo family attorney disputes the self-defense claim. Galindo was in his bedroom at home watching TV with his girlfriend when police barged in looking for someone else, they say.

There are conflicting accounts of what happened that night, one from police who say he pointed a gun at them and another from Galindo's girlfriend who said he never touched the weapon. Accounts from more witnesses can be found here.

According to police, it was just before 11:30pm on Dec. 15, 2011, when Tassio and his partner, officer Anthony Kilmer, were conducting a gang suppression sweep and thought they spotted someone who matched the description of a known gang member.

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 2.48.10 PM

Manuel Fuentes.

They went after the man, later identified as Manuel Fuentes, who was walking along Inman Way in East San Jose with Desiree Contreras.

Tassio told the DA that he left the unmarked cop car, yelled, "Hey stop! Police!" Fuentes darted into Galindo's home.

They chased and tackled Fuentes, who then slid a black semi-automatic handgun from his waist into the bedroom, where police say Galindo had come from in response to the commotion.

Police say Tassio walked into the room to retrieve the gun, telling Galindo to keep his hands off it. According to police, Galindo didn't listen. They say he picked it up and pointed the weapon at Tassio, who fired a single round into his torso.

After being shot, Galindo kept moving his hands to where the gun was, Tassio said. Galindo said he only wanted to sit up to breathe. Once more police arrived, they handcuffed Galindo while Kilmer stanched the gunshot wound with a bed sheet.

"Kilmer asked Galindo why he pointed a gun at the officer, and Galindo looked up at him with a blank stare," according to the DA's 2011 report on the shooting.

Galindo's girlfriend said he didn't have the gun when he got fatally shot. She did confess to police that he had a history of domestic violence and that she was afraid of him.

If Galindo's family pursued the case in court, they could use the lack of DNA evidence to challenge the officer's account, the Merc points out. Police could argue that it was missing because he held the gun only for a brief moment.

There's also some question about whether police had enough reason to pursue Fuentes when the spotted him on the street.

It should be noted that a settlement isn't necessarily an admission of fault.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

11 Comments

  1. Councilmember Liccardo has suggested that SJPD introduce officer-mounted cameras. This is a perfect example of why that sort of transparency is necessary.

    • SJPD has had cameras before Saratoga Sam was a council member….what killed off the camera program was the cost; More “elect me” propaganda; Why hasn’t Liccardo implemented all his crime fighting suggestions? He has had council majority to implement his ideas these last four years or is it just his selling points to get elected by the sheeple of San Jose?

  2. When this camera technology was first introduced at SJPD. Liccardo was not even a council member. But he likes to take credit for everything… What Liccardo does not say is the cost is enormous.

    Look the world is better off without this thug. And we should all be thanking a peace officer for keeping us safe. Thank god no policemen were killed by this idiot.

    The lawyer hopes to make 500k while the rest will be divided. City should deny deny deny any payment. He chose his outcome.

    • It won’t be that expensive. At the rate officers are leaving, they will only need a few cameras.

    • Liccardo has not taken credit for the current use of camera technology, but has instead proposed that all officers wear mounted cameras.

      And it would save millions.

      First of all, every criminal defendant is entitled, under the fourteenth amendment, to challenge the lawfulness of an officer’s arrest, seizure of evidence, or interrogation. Defendants and their lawyers have nothing to lose by making these challenges, and so thousands decide to make these challenges on the off-chance that something will come up during an officer’s cross-examination.This results in thousands of hours of officers sitting in court, instead of on the street protecting San Jose.

      Additionally, the city spends millions each year defending civil rights lawsuits from people who allege maltreatment or police misconduct. Cameras would hasten the process of fact-finding necessary to exposing those cops who really are abusive, and would allow the City to put an end to any frivolous lawsuits by immediately putting an end to questions of what really happened.

  3. I find the whole record laid out in this terrible shooting death, to be a first for SJPD.
    I am left to ponder what really happened . As I ponder, I remember the past incidances I have experienced dealing with our SJPD. A lot of it was pretty ugly, and some of it was so real,
    I hated volunteering joining our US NAVY, to protect these abusive cops, and judges.
    I dispise these gang member, they came so close to killing my only Son.
    The judge that sat in judgement of these thugs, was so detached , and grotesct, Judge Ball, left my family to drift forever in carrying the injustice . There is so much wrong with this state of law.
    My family’s world was changed forever, yet Judge Ball, only gave these henieous monsters 18 months.
    Yet, I would not kill some one to simply kill a fear or revenge..
    I believe that is what happened here.
    I will ponder on, and watch what happens in this blog.
    Who do I dispise more , the Judge, or the monsters that tried to kill my only son. I will answer that as I Ponder!

  4. J. Wadsworth says :“Kilmer asked Galindo why he pointed a gun at the officer, and Galindo looked up at him with a blank stare,” according to the DA’s 2011 report on the shooting.

    SJI can’t claim to be unbiased if it allows its “reporters” to ignore very relevant information contained in that same DA’s report.

    According to the DA’s report on the shooting: Cynthia Barragan told an officer in the SJPD Witness Center (where statements are recorded? Maybe?) that she heard Valente Galindo “tell an officer that he was only trying to put the gun under the bed.”

    Later the report says that Barragan told detectives that she heard Galindo tell an officer “I was just putting it under the bed. I wasn’t going to shoot. I’m not going to do anything.” who had threatened to “shoot (Galindo)… again.” Barragan said that Galindo’s statement was in response to an officers threat to shoot Galindo again “if he moved.” It is almost certain that this statement made by Barragan was recorded if the detectives were from the homicide unit – and probably why the DA reports it in quotes.

    Despite being Galindo’s “abused” ex-girl friend, Barragan was “chilling” in or on a bed with him – she has a certain amount of loyalty to Galindo and very likely a very personal anti-police bias? Is there any “reasonable person” who could say/believe that Barragan made up her statement about hearing Galindo tell officers that he was just “putting the gun under the bed.”???

    What about that gun? The report says that after it was recovered and tested it was determined to be THE MISSING MURDER WEAPON used to kill a woman in October 2011 (2 months prior to this event). The victim woman’s husband was convicted of the crime while the gun was outstanding. Fuentes plead guilty to possessing the gun – why was he in possession of a murder weapon? There is no information in the report that says he denied tossing the gun into the bedroom where Galindo was and only Barragan’s “independent” statement that could easily lead a “reasonable” person to conclude that Galindo was at least reaching for the gun if not touching or holding it.

    in the end , settling for $900k is probably less expensive than taking the case to trail and far less expensive that an award that could be given by the local kooks on the federal bench. The media (SJI included) is doing its level best to make Galindo a martyr by ignoring the totality of circumstances surrounding the case. As usual its the tired old “blame SJPD” mantra. The reality is that none of this ever would have happened if Manual Fuentes hadn’t been walking in public drinking a beer while carrying a loaded gun…

  5. Oh Jennifer and the other bias believers, would you care to retort? It seems Meyer has some irrefutable facts… Nice job SJI!
    I don’t know of ANY other city in the state of CA where the local media is so completely bias against its police force.

  6. If the City Attorney had any balls or trial skills, they would try this case instead of giving away $900k of taxpayer $$ to the kids of some gang member. But it’s not THEIR money, and they have neither trial skills nor balls, so they cave in and pass out a ton of money.

    The deceased gang member was 47, so all his kids are likely adults, and therefore probably did not rely on him for support–a major component of a wrongful death award. Besides, I doubt Senor Galindo made close to $900k in his entire life. He doesn’t look like a Google millionaire.

    Show the jury his gang tats that SJI cropped out of the picture and his rap sheet, pick an intelligent jury of working people, let the jury know that the officer was cleared of wrongdoing, and it’s a defense verdict. There is some risk, so I’d offer the 4 kids $25k each, take it or leave it.

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