Lawyers representing family members of a California grandmother who was fatally shot by police in February after backing her car into a police vehicle accused the department of excessive force this week.
Tracy Gaeta, 54, died after a K-9 officer identified by police as Kyle Ribera fired more than two dozen shots into her car on February 22, according to police and state footage. the body camera released this month.
“Like too many black women across this country, Tracy Gaeta is another victim of preventable police brutality,” Angelina Austin, a firm attorney representing Gaeta’s family, said in a statement this week.
The incident began when a driver later identified as Gaeta hit another officer’s car while stopped at a red light and drove off, the Stockton Police Department said in a video statement released. this month. The officer advised dispatch that the driver was possibly a black male in his mid-50s.
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After Gaeta fled the scene, police say his car was found on a dead end road by K-9 officer Kyle Ribera.
Police body camera footage shows Ribera pulling up behind Gaeta’s vehicle and beginning to exit the car with his gun drawn, shouting “Hands up!”
Gaeta’s vehicle then backed into the police car, causing Ribera to fall back into the car.
“He hits me,” Ribera said before getting out of the vehicle again and firing more than a dozen shots into the back of Gaeta’s car, shattering the rear windshield.
The video shows Ribera changing his gun clip and shouting “Hands up”.
The officer then fired another volley of shots into Gaeta’s vehicle – with bullets smashing the windows on the driver’s side – as the car drove forward and then back towards Ribera.
Gaeta was taken to hospital, where she died of her injuries. Ribera received medical treatment for a head and hand injury, police said.
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In a statement to USA TODAY, Stockton police said a multi-agency investigation into the incident is ongoing and will require a final review by the district attorney’s office. The Stockton Police Union did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ribera was placed on three-day paid administrative leave following the incident, but has since returned to work, according to the police statement.
“Stockton PD quickly decided to stand with Officer Ribera rather than hold him accountable,” Jayme Walker, a lawyer with the firm representing Gaeta’s family, said in a statement this week.
Walker added that “nationally recognized standards prohibit officers from shooting at moving vehicles absent the most compelling circumstances.”
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A 2019 Stockton Police Department policy “generally prohibits shooting at a fleeing vehicle”.
“Decisions to fire at moving vehicles should be based on the most compelling circumstances,” the policy says.
Gaeta’s daughter, Tressie Gaeta, remembered her as a “loving and caring mother and grandmother” who “always knew how to put a smile on your face”, according to the family lawyers’ statement.
“She will be greatly missed by my children and me,” said Tressie Gaeta. “I hope we can find justice because she did not deserve to die like that”.
Gaeta’s son, Alex Gaeta Jr., called his mother “warm” and a “caring soul” who “always saw the light in others.”
“I am so distraught and beside myself trying to understand why such violent and excessive use of force was used to manage this situation,” he said in the statement. “I just want justice for my mother.”