A man injured in a 2016 police-involved shooting is challenging police accounts of the incident this week.
Last October, Lake Havasu City SWAT officers obtained a warrant to search the home of Havasu resident Charlie Gonzalez, who was at the time suspected to have had a role in a narcotic distribution ring.
The officers announced their presence upon gaining entry, and encountered Gonzalez during a sweep of the residence.
According to Mohave County prosecutors, Gonzalez allegedly fired on officers, prompting the use of deadly force.
With low visibility and tight corners, footage from police body cameras didn’t make it immediately clear who shot first, but Gonzalez on Friday told his own side of the story.
“I have statements from officers, admitting they didn’t shoot because I shot first,” Gonzalez said. “They were in fear for their lives. A 21-year-old living alone with his mother doesn’t have the right to be afraid of several intruders coming into my home while I’m asleep? No one said, ‘put down the gun.’ All they said was ‘gun,’ and immediately started to fire.”
According to Gonzalez, a total of 29 rounds were fired by police, seven of which struck their mark. Gonzalez was struck five times in his chest and once in each arm, Gonzalez said. He can still feel the bullets inside of him, nearly one year after his recovery. Gonzalez was transported by helicopter to Las Vegas for emergency medical treatment.
Gonzalez was admitted in critical condition, and remained hospitalized for about one month after the incident.
The officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave as Kingman Police detectives investigated the incident. Those officers returned to active duty several weeks after the incident, according to Lake Havasu Police Sgt. Tom Gray.
Gonzalez was one of six suspects arraigned last year on drug charges following an investigation by the Mohave Area General Narcotics Enforcement Team. According to Mohave County court records, Gonzalez and five other suspects were charged in allegedly related incidents including possession and transporting marijuana for sale, conspiracy to possess, transport or sell marijuana and offering to sell dangerous and narcotic drugs. Gonzalez was additionally charged with attempted second degree murder in reference to the shooting incident.
“I’m sure you saw several comments saying I deserved it, and what a (stupid person) I was for firing at officers,” Gonzalez said. “That’s not how it went down. (The officer) was scared, plain and simple, and overreacted. I have no hard feelings. I understand they are just doing their job. But they want to give me second degree attempted murder when I was the one who almost got murdered.”
Found in Gonzalez’s home was 1.5 pounds of marijuana, for which Gonzalez says he possessed a medical card. Through the investigation and warrants served, law enforcement officers confiscated $31,105, multiple handguns and rifles, one shotgun, 28 pistol magazines, 126 rifle magazines and one 2004 Chevrolet pick-up truck from the homes of the accused.
Suspects Brandon W. Cruz, 22, Jozsef B. Goding, 21, Jordan A. Cadiz, 24, Katelynn R. Kennedy, 19, and Daniel A. Garay, 24, have each pleaded guilty to assorted drug-related charges, according to court records. The most recent guilty plea was that of Goding, who signed a plea agreement Dec. 19. Goding was sentenced to 7-12 years in prison, and was ordered to reimburse MAGNET in the amount of $2,400.
According to Lake Havasu City Police Sgt. Tom Gray, any updates on legal proceedings in Gonzalez’s case will be given through the Mohave County Attorney’s Office. The case against Gonzalez is led by Deputy County Attorney Megan McCoy, who was as of Friday evening unavailable for comment.
Gonzalez remains free on $100,000 bond, and is scheduled to appear at 11 a.m. Jan. 23 before Mohave County Superior Court Judge Billy Sipe for a case management conference.