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Tucson officer charged with assault after striking handcuffed suspect

A veteran Tucson police officer was booked into jail Sunday, charged with assaulting a handcuffed suspect by striking him in the head last week. Ofc. William Gallego resigned from the Tucson Police Department before he was charged.

Gallego faces one count of aggravated assault, a class 6 felony, for striking a man placed under arrest at a South Side bus station after a reported fight on Thursday evening, authorities said. Gallego twice hit the man in the head using his shin, and placed his boot on the back of the suspect's head as he was lying on the ground, officials said.

Because of the use of force, supervisors reviewed body-camera footage of the incident Friday, and a criminal investigation was launched, said a TPD spokesman in a news release Sunday evening.

"Based on video evidence, investigators believe Gallego made intentional contact with the suspect’s head two different times while he was handcuffed on the ground," said Sgt. Pete Dugan. Gallego was a 16-year veteran with TPD, and last year was named "Employee of the Quarter" by his superiors. A former corrections officer, Gallego now finds himself behind bars in the same county jail he used to guard.

The suspect, whose name was not released by TPD, "was not injured during the incident," Dugan said.

The incident began when officers were called to the scene of a fight at the Roy Laos Transit Center, 205 West Irvington Rd., around 7:20 p.m. Thursday.

When they arrived, security guards at the bus station told them the individuals involved had left the area, so the officers also left, Dugan said.

About an hour later, officers were again called to the transit center, because one of the men who had reportedly been involved in the altercation had returned.

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From TPD:

A security guard pointed out the suspect and told officers he wanted him arrested for trespassing. As officers began to make contact, the adult male suspect laid face down on the ground and put his hands out. After officers put handcuffs on the suspect, he became uncooperative and started to resist. The officers tried rolling the suspect on to his side, but he began yelling, kicking his feet and refused to give officers his name.

Gallego responded to the scene to assist. Gallego recognized the suspect from a previous contact and called the suspect by his name. The suspect then spit on Gallego’s pant leg. For reasons we do not know, Gallego placed his boot on the back of the suspect’s head. He then walked to his vehicle to obtain a restraint device.

When Gallego returned, he walked past the suspect and struck his head with his shin on two separate occasions. Officers were able to restrain the suspect’s legs, but he refused to stand so they carried him to their patrol car.

The man who was arrested was booked into the jail, to be charged with one count of trespassing and one count of failure to identify, Dugan said.

Friday, the day after the incident, "Gallego's supervisor reviewed the body-worn camera footage as part of a standard review when force has been used by an officer. The sergeant noticed Gallego's actions and notified his chain of command who also reviewed the footage," said the TPD spokesman.

"An internal criminal investigation was then conducted. Based on video evidence, investigators believe Gallego made intentional contact with the suspect's head" twice, Dugan said.

"Detectives obtained probable cause for an arrest" and he was booked into the Pima County Jail on Sunday. He resigned from the force prior to being booked, Dugan said. Pima County jail records indicated that Gallego was being held there Sunday night. No bond has yet been set, and no hearing dates have yet been added to the court's online calendar.

Gallego, 48, joined TPD in 2004, after serving two years as a deputy with the Pima County Sheriff's Department, according to TPD records. Before that, Gallego, a Marine veteran who was trained as a sniper, was a corrections officer for two years.

Gallego has been assigned to patrol as a lead police officer in Operations Division South, TPD said last year. He had earlier worked as an undercover officer for three years.

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In naming him as the South Side division's "Employee of the Quarter" in January 2019, TPD described Gallego as a "dedicated and hard-working officer who is a devoted asset to the Department and the community he serves."

"His ardent passion for police work, family , and community service is unparalleled," a slide shown during the award presentation said.

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TPD

Gallego at a TPD award ceremony in 2019.