A California Black woman was fatally shot by authorities on February 22, and the family's lawyer said on Wednesday (April 13) that she was a victim of excessive police force.
Body camera footage of the deadly incident shows a Stockton K-9 officer firing more than 30 shots at Tracy Gaeta after she backed her vehicle into the cop’s car.
According to the Gaeta family lawyer, Gary Gwilliam, the officer acted against policies followed by many police departments that prohibit authorities from shooting at moving vehicles, NBC News reports. The lawyer said Gaeta was unarmed and didn’t pose a threat to Kyle Ribera, the cop in question.
Gwilliam said in a statement, “No matter what was going on with her — even if she had committed a heinous crime — he didn’t have the right to shoot her." He added, “She never threatened him.”
“The excessive force is shocking,” Gwilliam said.
Gaeta’s run-in with Stockton police began when she was spotted striking a law enforcement vehicle stopped at a red light. The California grandmother then fled the scene and was chased by Ribera.
According to the police department, Gaeta eventually stopped and backed into Ribera’s vehicle, which resulted in a head injury. Ribera responded by shooting 18 bullets at Gaeta's car.
In the body camera video, Gaeta began to pull forward and reversed seemingly away from the cop car. However, Ribera proceeded to open fire again, shooting at her 12 more times.
Stockton Police Department spokesperson told NBC News that a multi-agency review was underway. The review will end with the local district attorney deciding whether the officer should be hit with criminal charges.
Gwilliam, the victim’s family’s lawyer, said it's unknown why Gaeta rammed the cop car. He added that Gaeta has no criminal record or history of mental illness.
Angelina Austin, a lawyer with Gwilliam's firm, said in a statement, "Like too many Black women across this country, Tracy Gaeta is yet another victim of preventable police violence."
Reading about Black trauma can have an impact on your mental health. If you or someone you know need immediate mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor. These additional resources are also available:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
The National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-6264
The Association of Black Psychologists 1-301-449-3082
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America 1-240-485-1001
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