A lawsuit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento by the children of a 54-year-old woman who was fatally shot by a Stockton police officer early last year following a traffic collision.
Tracy Gaeta was killed last year at the end of Rolerson Road after Officer Kyle Ribera allegedly fired approximately 33 gunshots at her — something attorneys representing the victim’s family say was “excessive lethal force.”
The family’s law firm, Gwilliam Ivary Chiosso Cavalli & Brewer, said a lawsuit was filed against the city of Stockton, former Stockton Police Department Chief Eric Jones, and Ribera for alleged excessive force, negligence, wrongful death and other claims.
Police said on Feb. 22, 2022, at 2:08 p.m., a patrol unit was struck in the area of Charter Way and Interstate 5 by a driver later identified as Gaeta.
According to police, Gaeta allegedly fled the scene after the collision.
In video footage released by police, Gaeta’s vehicle was seen entering the Interstate 5 on-ramp after hitting the police car. When the officer proceeded to follow, the driver made a U-turn and exited the ramp, traveling against oncoming cars.
However, an attorney with the law firm alleged in a press release last April that the footage released by police was selective in what was shown.
“After repeated requests to the Stockton Police Department for a position statement regarding their justification for the killing of an unarmed 54-year-old Grandmother on 2-22-22, they finally responded by posting an April 7, 2022, public relations piece with select body cam clips of the incident in an attempt to twist the narrative to their favor,” said attorney Gary Gwilliam.
The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office said Gaeta’s grey car was seen again after the driver ran a red light at Fresno Avenue and state Highway 4.
Authorities said they attempted to pull the car over, but when the driver didn’t stop, a pursuit began south on Roberts Road and continued to the east dead end of Rolerson Road.
Allegedly, when Ribera exited his patrol unit and ordered the driver to exit the car, Gaeta shifted into reverse, accelerated backwards and rammed the police car, causing the door of the police car to hit the officer in the head and knock him down, according to sheriff’s officials.
Nineteen, he’s ramming me, he’s ramming me,” Ribera is heard saying in the video footage.
Ribera fired his weapon when the car continued to back into the police officer’s vehicle, according to police.
The press release said that part of the filed complaint states that “instead of holding his position and waiting for additional officers to arrive on scene from the safety of his police cruiser, Defendant Ribera unreasonably exited his vehicle and unnecessarily drew his service weapon, a show of force disproportionate to the seriousness of the alleged crime(s) in progress, leaving the scene of a minor traffic accident”.
Police said 19 shots were fired in the first round and several shots were again deployed when the car moved a short distance.
Gaeta was given medical aid by officers and was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The law firm previously said a private autopsy was conducted on Gaeta and the preliminary report showed that the second clip of bullets killed her.
“Ms. Gaeta was killed by an officer of the Stockton Police Department who fired thirty-three (33) bullets into her car in a spectacular display of excessive force and reckless disregard for human life and malicious conduct,” the law firm said in a press release.
Attorney Jayme Walker said Gaeta was not intoxicated at the time of the shooting and was allegedly having a mental health crisis.
Whether she was having a mental health crises or not, doesn’t give you the permission to ram your car into someone, whether it’s an officer of the law or a citizen, period. She rammed the officer, then took off speeding, endangering others. If she was having a bad mental health day then she should have went to or called Behavioral Health on California street or reach out to St. Joseph’s mental health facility. Using mental health as an excuse to commit crimes should not be a permissible argument in the court of law.
Yes, the officer used 33 bullets, while excessive he feared for his life and did his best to prevent the alleged attacker from attacking him with her car again. We have a relatively small police force and the officer may have had no other choice to fire his gun due to the wait time for back up.
Let’s look at all the facts of the case.
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