Elizabeth Gonzales speaks about the loss of her son and her official complaint against Officer Gutierrez. (Photo by Madeline Duncan)
The Gonzales family announced Tuesday, Jan. 30, a complaint with the Austin Office of Police Oversight against Austin police officer Gabriel Gutierrez for false or misleading testimony regarding his involvement in the death of their son, Alex Gonzales Jr.
The complaint arises from the federal civil rights case the Gonzales family filed against the city of Austin and officers Gutierrez and Luis Serrato for the 2021 shooting death of Gonzales Jr. In a letter addressed to the OPO Jan. 29, Don Puckett, the family’s lead attorney, asks the office to investigate whether Gutierrez provided a false or misleading description of his interaction with Gonzales in his initial 911 call, public statement, and internal affairs interview.
“Today I call on the people of Austin, everyone who is interested in police reform and police accountability,” Alex’s mother Elizabeth Gonzales said at the press conference. “It’s time to raise your voice.”
The family is currently seeking damages under the wrongful death statute for emotional damages and loss after officers Gutierrez and Serrato shot and killed Gonzales in 2021. The lawsuit revealed the deposition of Gutierrez to the public for the first time, in which he testified he did not see Jessica Arellano, Gonzales’ girlfriend, who was in the passenger seat. The lawsuit alleges this is implausible considering Gutierrez shot Arellano three times while firing through the passenger-side window of Gonzales’ car. Puckett said the testimony raises questions regarding Gutierrez’s perception, reaction, and ability to serve as a police officer.
Gutierrez testified Dec. 5, 2023, nearly three years after he shot Gonzales. He claimed he was preparing to make a left turn when Gonzales cut him off and pointed a gun at him. In response, Gutierrez claims he ducked and shot rapid-fire at Gonzales in the span of two to three seconds.
The complaint claims Gutierrez may have provided false or misleading testimony when he described the incident as “road rage” in his initial 911 call, then in his deposition said Gonzales was initially driving slowly and not erratically. Puckett said this inconsistency provides reason to believe Gutierrez gave a false description to conceal his culpability in provoking confrontation or to justify his actions.
The city redacted portions of the testimony that reference the internal affairs report, which is protected under the “G file,” which protects records of certain APD internal investigations. The city has fought to maintain G files despite the Austin Police Oversight Act, a May voter initiative that made maintenance of G files illegal. Texas law allows cities to maintain these confidential records but does not require them to. In October, the Texas Attorney General’s Office ruled the city does not have to release the secret files.
“This case illustrates how, at least occasionally, that law leads to absurdities such as the situation,” Puckett said. “Everybody knows there has been an internal affairs investigation. Everybody knows the results of that investigation, no discipline for these officers, but somehow, I’m not allowed to talk about any of the information that’s in that file. It really doesn’t make a lot of sense from a public transparency and police accountability perspective.”
In 2022, a grand jury decided not to indict Gutierrez and Serrato. Puckett said he does not aim to change that outcome but to illustrate policy issues within the Austin Police Department. For example, Gutierrez fired at Gonzales while off-duty and did not identify himself as a police officer before using lethal force. Puckett takes the position that this is consistent with APD’s written policy and says that policy should be reconsidered.
“I will never ever be the same again,” Elizabeth Gonzales said. “I lost my son. He was everything to me. All I want is the truth.”
[Editor’s note: The story has been changed to correct our initial assertion that the press conference centering on the lawsuit being filed. The civil rights case filed against the city and the officers involved in the shooting was filed in 2022.]
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