SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The wife of a Marine veteran who killed himself after being shot by a st ate police officer near Santa Fe two years ago is suing New Mexico, state police and an officer, and she is disputing the police version of the events.
Diego M. Gonzales’ pickup was stopped by a state police officer on Interstate 25 south of Santa Fe on Dec. 28, 2010, after authorities said they responded to reports he had abducted his wife and 2-year-old son from Pecos.
State police have said he got out of the truck and opened fire on the officer, who shot back and hit the 27-year-old. Gonzales then fatally shot himself in the head, according to The Santa Fe New Mexican (http://bit.ly/TTGGPK).
The suit filed Wednesday in state court says Gonzales fired out of the truck’s window but didn’t point his gun at the officer and that he stayed in the vehicle. The suit says officer Bryan Waller shot the veteran of two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan twice in the back as he sat in the driver’s seat.
State police spokesman Lt. Robert McDonald said Saturday the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
The wrongful death suit was filed on behalf of Ashley “Roxanne” Gonzales by Los Lunas lawyer Steven M. Chavez. It seeks unspecified damages from Waller, the state police and the state Department of Public Safety.
Diego Gonzales had been a decorated master sergeant and sniper with the U.S. Marine Corps, who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the newspaper reports. He was working for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration at the Albuquerque International Sunport when he died.
The day of the shooting, the lawsuit says, he drove to the home of his wife’s parents in Pecos, where his wife and son were spending the Christmas holidays, but became upset and wanted to return to Albuquerque with his wife and son that evening.
Ashley Gonzales said she agreed to accompany him, even though her husband was armed with a handgun, because she understood he was suffering from stress and thought she could calm him down.
After they left, the paper reports, Ashley Gonzales’ mother called the Santa Fe Regional Emergency Communication Center to express her concerns and Waller was dispatched to intercept Diego Gonzales.
According to the lawsuit, Diego Gonzales began to relax as they passed through the Santa Fe area. Waller caught up with the truck and stopped it south of Santa Fe. His stopped his patrol vehicle, parked about 25 feet behind the pickup truck, got out with his semi-automatic rifle and yelled for Diego Gonzales to put his hands outside the driver’s side window.
The complaint says that Diego Gonzales rolled down his window and fired three shots. But Diego “Gonzales did not point or shoot his handgun in the direction of Waller (and) at no time opened the driver’s side truck door, nor did he ever attempt to exit the truck,” according to the complaint.
Waller then fired two shots from his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle into the back widow of Diego Gonzales’ truck, striking him in the back, the New Mexican reports. Diego Gonzales then shot himself. Ashley Gonzales and Diego Gonzales Jr. were not injured.
Waller, who fired two more shots from his assault rifle after Gonzales shot himself, “knew or should have known that no other person was . in immediate danger,” the complaint says.