Watertown police officer’s actions in fatal traffic stop incident found lawful, reasonable

Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 9:11 PM CDT
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WATERTOWN, Wis. (WMTV) - A Watertown police officer will not be charged for his involvement in a fatal traffic stop that occurred in May.

Jefferson County District Attorney Monica J. Hall announced Monday that based on the facts of the case, Watertown Police Officer Pedro Gallegos’ actions were lawful and reasonable acts of self defense against Thomas J. Southerlin.

According to the DA’s statement, Gallegos assisted in the May 31, 2020 traffic stop for a burnt-out taillight. Southerlin, one of the four passengers in the car, presented a fake ID and refused to get out of the car per Officer Gallegos’ requests.

Gallegos noticed Southerlin had a knife on him. When Southerlin continuously refused to show his hands, Gallegos used his taser on him. Gallegos then noticed Southerlin also had a gun.

Southerlin fired his gun at the officers from his car. This was met with 13 shots from the officers. The other three passengers in the car were uninjured but Southerlin found deceased.

An autopsy was performed at the University of Wisconsin Pathology Department on June 5, 2020, revealing Sutherlin died as a result of a gunshot wound to the head. There were no other gunshot wounds found on his body.

Crime lab analysis revealed the bullet that had killed Southerlin came from his own gun.

Based on these facts, the DA will not be pressing charges.

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