Family of man killed by police files claim against Santa Maria

August 4, 2016

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Family members of a 31-year-old man who was shot and killed last month by Santa Maria police officers have filed a claim against the city. The family is seeking $3 million in damages and mandatory training for officers on handling incidents involving emotionally or mentally unstable individuals. [KEYT]

Javier Gaona was armed with a knife and reportedly suicidal when officers shot and killed him. Gaona’s family and many witnesses to the shooting have said it constituted excessive force, while the Santa Maria Police Department has told media that the shooting was justified.

On the morning of July 20, officers responded to a report of a man who was said have walked into a bank with a knife. Officers found Gaona in front of FoodsCo at 1465 S. Broadway.

Police attempted to negotiate with Gaona but did not succeed in convincing him to surrender. Officers fired several rounds of bean bags, but the less lethal munitions did not subdue Gaona.

The Santa Maria man then started stabbing himself, after which he charged at officers with the knife, according to the police department. Officers fired multiple bullets at Gaona while he was running with the knife, police say.

At a press conference Wednesday, Eric Schweitzer, an attorney representing Gaona’s family, disputed the police department’s account of the shooting. Schweitzer said Gaona did not rush or walk toward the officers. Rather, he stumbled forward while dazed from the bean bag rounds that had hit him. The more he stumbled, the more the officers shot him. Officers overreacted, and there was contagious fire, Schweitzer said.

Schweitzer also said at least a dozen officers were present at the time of the shooting, and Gaona was too far away to inflict great harm on police officers who could have fired bean bag rounds.

Gaona’s father said he wants justice for his son and for this not to happen to anyone else.

Multiple witnesses captured video of the shooting. Both the city and the attorneys representing the Gaona family are still reviewing video footage.

The family plans to file a lawsuit if the city denies the claim.


I’m sure the family is suffering, but so are the police officers who were put in that horrible situation of having to shoot him. I think people should realize the psychological issues officers have to carry with them when they have to take a life.

If the family wants to make a difference and make something out of their son’s life, they should try and help with the education of the Hispanic community in mental illness. They want the police to get more education in that area and I would agree with that. Education is always a good thing.

I remember the family claiming that their son had not mental health issues. So the real problem is that they lacked the knowledge. Maybe if they had been aware of his struggles, they could have helped him.

I’m not blaming the family, I’m just thinking they could do much more for their grief if they went in the direction of helping the Hispanic community become more educated with mental illness.

I wish their screwball attorney would direct them into a path that would give them a sense of doing something that would be a positive memory for their son…instead of making it about hate.


Have the drug tests come back yet? I am only asking because it is a fact that if the bean bags did not stop him he may have been on drugs, as that is very common situation. Just an inquiry, no judgment!


No. If the lawsuit fails (and it will) they should reimburse the legal fees for the city.


$3,000,000 !?!? NO. Mandatory “re-education” or training for the cops? YES.

Sorry about your loss, but you should NOT get to hold your neighbors (well, assuming they pay taxes) financially accountable for this tragedy. If there was ZERO threat, then possibly, but if you have a knife and walk towards a cop who is ordering you to cease and desist, I’m sorry, but the phrase “suicide by cop” exists for a reason.

What is also tragic is the ambulance-chaser who is probably promising this family the moon (or ⅔ of it, while he leeches the other ⅓). If I was a dirtball, my eyes would look like this, too: $ . $

We seriously need a limit on how much the taxpayers can be sued for. Also, we no longer call it “suing the police” or “suing the city” rather, call it like it is: suing your hard-working neighbors who likely had nothing at all to do with this.

Jorge Estrada

If the police hadn’t shot him, he was in the process of committing suicide. At least they saved his soul. Out of control with a deadly weapon needs to be stopped first and the could of should of conversation here is only about harvesting a very big pay check. Good stinkin luck.


What a load of bull manure.

If an individual is drugged or deranged or otherwise mentally impaired and commits suicide, those are all mitigating issues with respect to the salvation or loss of their soul.

Intentional suicide by cop by a sane person is no different than suicide by one’s own hand when it comes to the eternal life of one’s soul.


Everything about this situation is sad.

As a parent, I can’t imagine how painful this must be for this man’s parents.

It’s just so sad how many people truly need help and aren’t getting it. Had he stabbed and killed someone, would the fact that he was emotionally/mentally disturbed then be the excuse? It seems like a no win situation and that just isn’t right.

My heart goes out to his family, the people who witnessed this and for the policemen involved. I pray Javier finally is at peace. Just a bad situation all the way around.


I thought the officers did a bang up job trying to get this situation under control without using deadly force.

I am sorry for your loss, but the officers who shot him have to live with that fact they killed someone for the rest of their lives.

Maybe if he had been on the proper medication this situation would not have occurred and there would be no lawsuit and the officers would not have to live with the outcome.

What exactly do you think the officers should have done when they had an emotionally disturbed man running at them and they had a split second to make a decision?


Mental health professionals need to be on standby for just this reason.

It can take MONTHS to get in to see a County Mental Health Professional due to budget cuts.

I once called mental health with a new mom with a 4 week old baby. The mother said she felt her home was possessed and she was seeing demons. They could not see her for a month because she did not say she was a danger to herself or others.

I’m just wondering how we have come to a point in our world where we have 7-10 men in uniform, and the only way to subdue a “crazy” man with a knife is to shoot him 7-10 times.

miles archer

Well now that you’ve graced us with your personal opinion about the attorney…how about getting focused on the issue at hand.

After watching the video…there is a HUGE issue at hand that the SMPD are going to be held accountable for (or is this just my wishful thinking?).


Well now that you’ve graced us with your personal opinion about the attorney…how about getting focused on the issue at hand.


Because Eric Schweitzer is going to tell us all how men in the real world in a life and death situation should properly handle a crazed person charging at them with a knife.

In other words, Eric Schweitzer is going to go shopping at the expert store to see if he can find an expert who is willing to testify that the cops did it wrong and how this poor victim of police violence was wrongfully gunned down. Because Eric and his client want some money. Because it’s all about the money.

And the reality is that Eric, because he won’t stand much of a chance getting a jury to agree with him due to the video being obvious, will really be trying to extort a settlement out of the City/County by convincing them it’s cheaper to settle than to risk a trial.

Right, got it.


What planet do you live on? He was charging the police with a HUGE knife in his hand.

Is THAT the HUGE issue?


Josey Wales

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Santa Maria is really struggling since it embraced ‘Sanctuary City’ policies.

Cases like this will afflict Santa Maria until the city returns to sound governance practices, and the financial cost to city taxpayers is significant as more of these lawsuits roll in. Guess what? The lawyers representing this perp’s family KNOW they have a very sympathetic juror pool, and I would not be surprised to see a pre-trial payout in the millions.

Central Coast taxpayers need to hold people like Steve Lavignino, Alice Patino & Terry Zuniga accountable. As we have seen with Adam Hill, Bruce Gibson and Caren Ray, a group of misguided politicians pursuing their special interest agenda can do alot of harm.

DO NOT let what has happened to Santa Maria happen to Southern SLO County



Eric Schweitzer, an attorney=Dirtbag

Time for the dirtbag to call up down, left right, inside outside–anything to make a few bucks.