While officer-involved shootings continue to spark debate and controversy across the country, incidents of police shooting suspects in San Luis Obispo remain a rare occurrence.
According to a recent report from the California Department of Justice (DOJ), only two such incidents were reported in San Luis Obispo County last year.
- Photo By Jayson Mellom
- SHOTS FIRED A 2016 officer-involved shooting in Arroyo Grande was one of two such incidents reported by SLO County law enforcement to the California Department of Justice.
The report documented incidents where California police used force that resulted in a serious bodily injury or death, or involved the discharge of a firearm in 2016. There were 782 such incidents statewide in 2016. Neighboring Monterey County also reported only two use-of-force incidents to the DOJ, while Santa Barbara County reported 15 for the same year.
SLO County's two officer-involved shootings took place in smaller municipalities located at opposite ends of the county. The first shooting occurred July 4, 2016, in Atascadero, when officers responding to a report of a traffic collision in the 5600 block of El Camino Real encountered 58-year-old Gary Roger Reynolds, who had apparently crashed his truck into an abandoned building. According to police, Rogers exited his vehicle wielding a metal bar and began to approach the officers at the scene. After attempts to stop Reynolds with less-than-lethal ammunition failed, one of the officers, Sgt. Gregg Meyer, fired one round from his service weapon, hitting Reynolds in the abdomen. Reynolds was taken to the hospital and survived the shooting. He was later charged with multiple felonies, including assaulting an officer with a weapon, by the SLO County District Attorney's Office. Reynolds pleaded not guilty to the charges in February and his case remains ongoing in SLO County Superior Court.
The second officer-involved shooting occurred about seven weeks later in the city of Arroyo Grande. On Aug. 26, 2016, 46-year Christopher William Allen was shot multiple times by AGPD Sgt. Shane Day after an encounter near the U.S. Highway 101 ramp at Grand Avenue. According to police, a knife-wielding Allen had attempted to rob an elderly man and carjack another individual at a nearby convenience store. When the officer located Allen, he allegedly brandished his knife in the threatening manner and charged toward Day, failing to heed commands to stop.
Allen was also transported to the hospital and survived the shooting. He was charged with assaulting an officer with a weapon and carjacking. He pleaded not guilty to those charges Aug. 7, and his case also remains ongoing in SLO County Superior Court.
Investigators with the SLO County District Attorney's Office cleared the officers involved in both shooting incidents.
Reynolds and Allen were both white men older than 40, making them outliers from the bulk of other suspects shot by police in the state last year. According to the report, more than 60 percent of suspects were between 21 and 40 years old, and more than 50 percent were Hispanic or African-American.
This year, there have already been two officer-involved shootings in SLO County. Unlike the 2016 incidents, neither suspect survived. The first occurred on Jan. 24, when SLO County Sheriff's deputies shot and killed Josue Gallardo, a 34-year-old transient from Paso Robles. According to sheriff's officials, Gallardo pulled a gun on the deputies during a traffic stop. On July 17, 58-year-old Kenneth Alan Eustace was shot and killed by Grover Beach police after he allegedly charged at them with a large blunt object. Police said the officers at the scene attempted to use a Taser on Eustace before resorting to lethal force.
The report on 2016's officer-involved shootings is the first to come out of the state Department of Justice's Use of Force Incident Reporting, also called URSUS, database, an all-digital platform that tracks use of force incidents reported by California's 800-plus law enforcement agencies. URSUS was created after the passage of Assembly Bill 71 in 2015, which required the state's police departments and other law enforcement agencies to collect and report use of force data to the DOJ, which in turn would make that information accessible to the public.
While the report provides the public a window into use of force incidents within their county, the narrow definition of "use of force" set out by AB 71 only represents incidents that resulted in serious bodily injury, death, or the discharge of a firearm, and does not contain the full spectrum of use of force incidents, according to the DOJ. Δ