Bodycam footage has been released of a fatal shooting that was ruled justified after a man tried running over a Waukegan police officer with a car in 2019.
The Waukegan Police Department responded at 2:33 p.m. February 3, 2019 to a call of an unknown problem involving multiple people in the 3500 block of Windhaven Drive.
Waukegan Police Officer Rolando Villafuerte arrived at the scene and ‘became engaged’ with 35-year-old Asuncion J. Gomez-Guerrero, according to the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Gomez-Guerrero tried leaving the scene in a grey Honda and Officer Villafuerte parked his marked police car near Gomez-Guerrero’s vehicle to try and prevent him from leaving. Officer Villafuerte repeatedly told the man to stop, the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office said.
Gomez-Guerrero started the engine and placed the vehicle into reverse. The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office said that Officer Villafuerte placed his hand on the hood and said, “No!! No!! Hey! Hey! Turn it off!!”
Gomez-Guerrero ignored the officer and put the car into “drive” from “reverse” and turned the wheel toward the officer, at which point the front bumper struck him in the leg. Officer Villafuerte backed up and tried to slide to the side of the vehicle to avoid being run over.
“When Gomez-Guerrero continued to ignore the officer’s commands and move the vehicle forward, Villafuerte drew his weapon and fired three shots into the windshield of the vehicle,” the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office said.
“During this entire encounter, Officer Villafuerte acted firmly, responsibly and took every reasonable step to avoid a confrontation,” Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said.
“Mr. Gomez-Guerrero’s acts of turning the car towards Officer Villafuerte and accelerating in his direction created the reasonable belief that Officer Villafuerte’s life was in imminent danger. He acted reasonably in eliminating that threat,” Nerheim said.
After Gomez-Guerrero was shot by the officer, the vehicle continued to flee the area before crashing into a telephone pole a block away, according to the Waukegan Police Department.
Gomez-Guerrero was transported to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead. An 18-year-old Waukegan woman, who was also inside the vehicle, was transported to an area hospital with minor injuries from the crash.
Toxicology results showed that Gomez-Guerrero had a blood alcohol content of .182, more than double the legal driving limit, and had THC in his system. Villafuerte has been a police officer for 20 years, the Waukegan Police Department said.
Nerheim concluded that Officer Villafuerte acted ‘reasonably and appropriately’ in the use of deadly force during the confrontation.
“I would like to express my condolences to the family of Asuncion J. Gomez-Guerrero. I would also like to acknowledge the Illinois State Police for its expertise, dedication and thoroughness. I would like to commend the professionalism exhibited by Officer Rolando Villafuerte during these trying circumstances. And, lastly, my thanks to the citizens of Waukegan for their patience and cooperation in this matter,” Nerheim said in August.
The release of the bodycam footage comes as two lawsuits have been filed against the city of Waukegan following the shooting.