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Javier Garcia Gaona, 31
Santa Maria, California
July 20, 2016

Agencies: Santa Maria Police Department California | Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office California

Last updated: 4 months ago

Overview Help icon

The scene unfolded when officers responded to the 1400 block of S. Broadway and W. Enos Drive at 8:44 a.m. after the man reportedly entered a bank and then stood in front of FoodsCo near the intersection shouting obscenities and making cutting motions to his throat and chest.  

S. Broadway between Battles and Stowell roads was closed for six hours after the shooting.

Police Chief Ralph Martin said the man was holding a knife to his own throat and asking officers to kill him, which officers refused to do. An FBI-trained negotiator spoke with the man, but at some point "the man quit negotiating with us," Martin said.

"Officials deployed less-than-lethal weapons; we fired approximately 15 shots of 12-gauge beanbag shotgun rounds," Martin said.

After deploying the beanbag shotgun rounds, Martin said officers began shooting about four to five 40 millimeter tennis-ball sized rounds to knock the man down.

Martin added, "We deal with a lot of these incidents, where we want to use the least amount of force; we have the man on tape — he was screaming obscenities, he was clearly upset, had some mental illness and was talking about a lot of different political things."

"I'm upset about this," he continued. "I'm concerned about our officers, people who witnessed this, and it's a clear use of force, but I know we did everything we could. I hope the man survives, but officers also have a duty to protect themselves."

Martin said officers were familiar with the man and knew his name from prior incidents, but said he won't be identified pending notification of next of kin.

After the shooting a crowd of about 20 people gathered at the Vallarta Supermarket parking lot across the street, yelling at the officers and arguing with one another. Many bystanders were taking photos and videos of the scene.

The crowd was visibly divided in their opinions about the use of force, said Tina Sanchez, of Nipomo.

Legal Action Help icon

In July 2018, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit filed by the family of Gaona, but left open the possibility for some parts of the case to be filed in state court.

Community and Family Efforts Help icon

July 2016 Funeral expenses fund