Utah State Adult Probation and Parole agent Andrew O’Gwin thought he’d experienced a lot in over a decade working in law enforcement and incarceration. But little could prepare him for what happened during and after a May 2017 encounter with a violent felon.
Just after midnight on May 13th, Agent O’Gwin was stopped for a red light near an interstate highway off-ramp. A car pulled to a stop in the next lane and little did the agent know his life would be forever changed just seconds later.
From the front passenger seat of that nearby car emerged a hooded man who walked in a “gangster strut” toward Andy O’Gwin’s unmarked police sedan. The man started shouting loudly and aggressively toward O’Gwin, then started banging on it with what the agent believed was a metallic object, perhaps the butt of a gun or other weapon.
Shocked by the unprovoked attack, the agent’s mind raced. Relying on his training and experience, Andy feared that the attacker would quickly breach the window and continue the attack inside his car. He drew his weapon and fired, knocking the assailant to the ground outside his door.
When he tried to get out of the car, the attacker repeatedly kicked it closed. The attacker then got up, re-entered the car he had emerged from, and the car sped off into the darkness.
The stunned law enforcement officer radioed in the incident and help quickly arrived. Shortly thereafter, Agent O’Gwin got his second shock of the night – his attacker was also one of his parolees with whom the agent was in phone contact with just hours before. The attacker was Joe Gomez, also known as “Norte Joe” after the violent Norteños prison and street gang he was a sworn member of. Gomez, a repeat convicted felon was free to roam the streets of Utah after his recent release following a weapons conviction; and, Agent Andrew O’Gwin was the probation and parole officer assigned to keep tabs on him.
Gomez had been hit by three rounds fired by Agent O’Gwin, and he was quickly charged and later convicted of disorderly conduct for the attack. But then came the next incredible shock of this case.
Almost a year later, in April 2018, the Salt Lake County District Attorney, Sim Gill, charged agent O’Gwin with Aggravated Assault, a 2nd degree felony carrying a maximum 15 year prison sentence. That’s right, a Salt Lake politician took eleven months to decide on the propriety of a decision a law enforcement officer had to make in three seconds! And he still got it wrong.
The LELDF and Salt Lake area law enforcement is no stranger to the judgments of DA Sim Gill. A few years ago, we raised funds to help defend another officer – Shaun Cowley – who had also used deadly force in defense of himself and his partner in a dangerous encounter. Shaun also found himself charged by the very same DA. Fortunately, a right-thinking judge heard the evidence offered by the DA’s office in that matter and dismissed the case after a preliminary hearing.
We at the LELDF will stand by agent Andy O’Gwin and his young family until these ridiculous, politically-driven charges are resolved in his favor, and we hope you’ll do the same.