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EPPD Officer Indicted In Shooting That Paralyzed Man

A grand jury has indicted El Paso police Officer Jorge Gonzalez in the shooting of a 20-year-old man April 1, 2010.

Gonzalez, a six-year veteran, was indicted on one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one count of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury.

Police said Gonzalez turned himself in to the Central Regional Command Center Thursday night. He was booked in to the El Paso County Jail and was released on bond.

Gonzalez was off duty when Andres Elias Cortez, 20, crashed a yellow Pontiac Sunfire into the back of an SUV driven by Gonzalez near the McDonald’s at the intersection of Yarbrough Drive and Gateway West Boulevard.

Off-duty police officer Michelle Gonzalez, was a passenger in the SUV. El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said the two were dating at the time.

Investigators said when the off-duty officers got out of their vehicle following the collision, Cortez tried to drive away and struck Michelle Gonzalez with his car.

Police said that after striking Michelle Gonzalez, Cortez put his vehicle in reverse, backed up then put the car in the driving gear with her still in his path. Jorge Gonzalez reportedly gave Cortez several commands to stop, and fearing for Michelle Gonzalez’s safety, Jorge Gonzalez took out his gun and pointed it at Cortez through the passenger’s side window of the Pontiac Sunfire. Police said that’s when Jorge Gonzalez fired his gun and struck Cortez in the neck.

As a result of the shooting, Cortez was paralyzed from the neck down. Cortez also faces charges

Cortez’s mother, Rosa, and his family issued a statement after the indictment was announced:

“We are pleased with the announcement of the indictment of Officer Gonzalez. The family would like to thank the grand jury, Ms. Lori Hughes, and the (district attorney’s) office for the hard work put forth to get this done. The focus now shifts to the criminal prosecution of Mr. Gonzalez. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘Justice consists not in being neutral between right and wrong, but in finding out the right and upholding it, wherever found, against the wrong.’ We look forward to getting justice for my son Andy.”

After the shooting, Cortez’s family said the officer could have reacted differently. They said the police had other options on that day, but Cortez did not.

Police said the Crimes Against Persons Unit and the Shooting Review Team investigated the shooting.

According to police, the investigation by the Shooting Review Team, which was presented to the Shooting Review Board in July of 2010, found the officer’s action to be within policy. This decision was based on the physical evidence and testimony from numerous independent witnesses, all of whom indicated Michelle Gonzalez was in imminent danger of serious bodily injury.

The Crimes Against Persons Unit’s investigation, which was presented to the District Attorney’s Office resulted in the naming Michelle Gonzalez as the victim and Cortezs suspected of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

During a new conference Friday afternoon, Chief Allen said he disputes the indictment.

“I wanna reassure the department, the personnel and the officers on the street, that we will stand behind them regardless of the circumstances, of the findings of a grand jury,” he said.

Allen said Jorge Gonzalez remains on administrative duty. He was placed there following a separate incident in March during which Gonzalez again opened fire on a driver following a chase near UTEP.

According to the El Paso District Attorney’s office, the driver in that case, Elie Assad, was indicted Wednesday, the same day as Gonzalez.

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