California Cop Who Shot Unarmed Black Man Was Demoted in 2015 for Sexually Harassing Female Officer

StorySeptember 29, 2016
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Dan Gilleon

attorney for the family of Alfred Olango, an unarmed African-American man who was shot and killed Tuesday in El Cajon, just outside of San Diego. Dan also represents Officer Christine Greer, the plaintiff in a sexual harassment lawsuit against Richard Gonsalves, one of the officers involved in the shooting.

Christopher Rice-Wilson

associate director at Alliance San Diego.

The El Cajon police officer who shot Alfred Olango dead has been at the center of controversy before. Last year, Richard Gonsalves was sued for sexual harassment after making lewd propositions and texting explicit photos to his subordinate officer. He was demoted to officer from sergeant. Gonsalves was just served with a second suit in August of this year, after the harassment continued. Despite the lawsuits, Gonsalves remained on the force. We speak to Dan Gilleon, attorney for the family of Alfred Olango and Officer Christine Greer, the plaintiff in a sexual harassment lawsuit against Richard Gonsalves.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Dan Gilleon, you not only represent the Alfred Olango family, after the police shooting death of Alfred Olango, you represent a plaintiff who sued Officer Gonsalves now twice. And, you know, in civilian life, we see this. We see, for example, in Omar Mateen and the Pulse shooting, the man who opened fire in the nightclub in Florida, the violence against women that precedes it, that perhaps is not taken seriously. Can you explain the story of your other plaintiff, the woman officer who says Gonsalves has been harassing her now for how long? And what has he been doing to her?

DAN GILLEON: Well, I represent Officer Christina Greer, and she’s a current police officer at the El Cajon Police Department. Now, I am a civil rights attorney, and civil rights includes sexual harassment. And I represent a lot of police officers themselves. And I—you know, I began suing police officers on civil rights cases, and then, a number of years ago, they began hiring me to go after the police departments themselves when they’ve been—their civil rights have been violated. And this is one of those cases, where Ms. Greer, Officer Greer, was facing some very severe sexual harassment by her own immediate supervisor, her sergeant. And that was Richard Gonsalves, the same officer now—he was demoted to an officer—that shot Mr. Olango.

He sent her a graphic, lewd photograph of his penis. And it was accompanied by text messages asking her for sexual acts, with her wife. She’s lesbian. It was over-the-top sexual harassment, something that would get anybody in this world, I would suspect, fired. But for whatever reason, the El Cajon Police Department decided to rally around, circle the wagons around, then-Sergeant Richard Gonsalves and just demote him down and then send him back to work with her, at which point he began continuing his harassment of her, spitting on her locker, following her down the hallway. Other officers would start making comments about her complaint about him, because they didn’t like that she violated the code of silence. It’s just a deplorable situation for Officer Greer.

And now this cowboy, who felt like he didn’t have to follow the rules that said you can’t send photographs of your penis to your subordinates, this same officer showed up at the scene of a mentally ill person who was, you know, acting out, and decided to take the law into his own hands there, too. And I think that this is just a problem for the El Cajon Police Department, because now, as you see again, circling the wagons, rallying behind this now officer and trying to act like he’s a victim again. And it’s really unfortunate.

And unfortunately, this is, seems like to me, the state of our affairs when it comes to police departments, even against their own. I represent a number of officers throughout San Diego County in many civil rights cases, where black officers, female officers are being discriminated against and really harassed at work because—either because of their protected class or because they complain about it. And we do have a problem here in San Diego, and there’s no doubt about that.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, the details laid out in the lawsuit against Gonsalves are graphic. Part of the complaint addresses the city of El Cajon’s lack of action after the harassment took place. It reads, quote, "When a sergeant texts his female subordinate a graphic photograph of his penis and offers to be her (and her wife’s) 'f*** buddy,' that sergeant should be fired. He should be prosecuted. The City did neither." So, Dan Gilleon, can you talk about that and how common a response that is to similar harassment claims?

AMY GOODMAN: And what the settlement was.

DAN GILLEON: I’ve never seen this. I’ve done a lot of sexual harassment cases over the years; I’ve never seen this. I’ve never seen—there’s only one other occasion where I ever saw an employer send a photograph of himself, and he was not an employer anymore. He was quickly terminated. This is a case where it really violated the penal code; in other words, he violated criminal law. That’s why I was saying he should have been prosecuted. You can’t send a photograph of yourself to somebody else when they don’t want it.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Dan Gilleon, what was the—

DAN GILLEON: That’s just a basic law.

AMY GOODMAN: What was the settlement?

DAN GILLEON: Well, the settlement the first time, that was handled by another attorney, and they entered into a confidential settlement agreement, which I don’t believe is enforceable. I believe in First Amendment, but at this point I don’t want to violate an agreement that was entered into by another attorney. I took the case for Officer Greer after she returned to work and they began going after her again—I mean, harassing her again, and basically trying to punish her for the lawsuit in the first place.

AMY GOODMAN: She was forced to work with him when she returned?

DAN GILLEON: And again, there was despicable conduct against her.

AMY GOODMAN: She was forced to work with him when she returned?

DAN GILLEON: Right. I mean, even yesterday, she told me that she was there with him. The other day, she had to show up at another location doing work duties. He was sitting across from her, and she believed that he was videotaping her, just the way he was acting. This guy is over the top. And for this police department to be circling the wagons for this cowboy right now is—they’ve done it before, when he did something that should have gotten him terminated. He shouldn’t have been a police officer on Tuesday, when he shot and killed my client’s son, my client’s father, my client’s brother.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Christopher Rice—

DAN GILLEON: He shouldn’t even have been a police officer then.

AMY GOODMAN: Christopher Rice-Wilson of Alliance San Diego, what are you demanding now, as the protests continue?

CHRISTOPHER RICE-WILSON: We’re demanding that the police department release the video. We want to see the video. We don’t want a still screenshot that makes their case. We want to see what happened before and after. We want to see Mr. Olango’s actions that made him a threat. Witnesses reported he was holding a vape cigarette, before the police Department released that information. If witnesses 20 feet away could see it was a vape cigarette, why couldn’t the officers see it from five feet away?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I also want to bring into the—

CHRISTOPHER RICE-WILSON: One officer tased. The other officer fired a weapon. We want the video.

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