The last thing Mary Sansen and I expected when we arrived at the retirement dinner for Sgt. Bob Canchola of the Pittsburg Police Department was that the evening would be interrupted by an officer-involved shooting and the aftermath of an officer being shot and killed in the line of duty. But, on Saturday, April 23, 2005, when Officer Larry Lasater of the Pittsburg Police Department passed away after being shot by a suspect, we were required to do just that.
I heard the news upon arrival at the retirement dinner, and immediately left for the police department to represent officers who were involved in the shooting. When Sansen and I arrived at the department, we were given a rundown of the shooting and met with the officers that were actively involved in the incident. Two suspects had robbed a Wells Fargo Bank inside of a Raley’s grocery store, then highjacked a vehicle, and as they were fleeing from the scene, they crashed the car. After crashing the stolen car, they then fled on foot. As the incident developed, there was quite a lot of radio traffic concerning the robbery and the various attempts to ascertain the whereabouts of the suspects. Eventually, a number of units responded to the scene.
Lasater’s and Officer Florence’s units were the first to arrive on the scene, and they parked their vehicles at the entrance of an access road between Los Medanos College and a county building. Lasater was the first to exit his vehicle and travel down the access road in pursuit of the suspects. Florence was, at times, 50-to-75 yards behind Lasater. Officer Phil Galer arrived immediately after Lasater and Florence, and chose to enter the county building parking lot and drove to the rear of the lot where he could access the area where he believed the suspects were located.
The access road eventually ended at the Delta De Anza Regional Trail. As Florence and Lasater arrived (on foot) at the De Anza Trail they looked in each direction, both right and left, not sure which direction the suspects had run. They observed to their left one of the suspects ducking into a thickly brushed area along the right side of the trail. The officers immediately began to walk in the direction of the suspect. Florence indicated that at times Lasater was again perhaps 50 yards or so ahead of him.
As they moved along the right northern edge of the trail towards the heavily overgrown area, they heard individuals climbing a fence. There was no doubt in the officers’ minds that the suspects were attempting to move off of the trail into someone’s backyard.
The officers moved along the northern edge (right side) of the trail with their guns drawn. Florence indicated that at one point he saw and heard Lasater move into an area that was overgrown with trees and brush with his gun pointed in a downward direction and yelled “show me your hands.” Immediately, four or five shots rang out. Florence’s view of Lasater was partially obstructed, yet he saw him move in a downward direction. At that point, Florence was not sure whether Lasater had fired his weapon or someone else had fired at Lasater. Florence immediately began yelling for Lasater, but there was no response.
After the shots were fired it was eerily quiet, with no sound emanating from the overgrown area or the location of Lasater. Although Florence was in an area where he was himself very vulnerable since he had no idea where the suspects were located, he nonetheless continued to move forward toward Lasater in an attempt to discern his location and his status. As he approached, he eventually could see that Lasater was lying on his back and had suffered a gun shot to the neck. At this time Officer Galer arrived.
Both Florence and Galer realized that they were without any cover and totally exposed. Further, there was absolutely no way they could determine the location or whereabouts of the suspects who had shot Lasater. Due to the nature of the wound to Lasater, they knew they needed to secure medical assistance for him immediately. Therefore, they decided that rather than retreat along the route that they had taken to arrive at this location, they needed to move forward toward Desrye Boulevard, which was directly in front of them and approximately 50 yards away.
The officers had no choice but to travel directly across the spot where the suspect had fired. To travel back along the route from where they had come would have taken too much time and they feared that Lasater would succumb to his wounds. Therefore, they immediately began to move forward and to their left in an arc towards Desrye Boulevard. As they did this, they had their weapons pointed at the area where they assumed the suspect was located.
When they arrived near Desrye Boulevard, Florence assumed a lying position behind a small concrete pad and kept his gun trained on the area where Lasater was lying and where he suspected the suspects were still hiding. Galer continued forward.
Immediately after Lasater had been shot, Florence had put out over the radio that shots had been fired. When he finally observed Lasater lying on the ground, he also put out an 1199 over the radio, “officer down”. But, the other responding officers could not discern the officer’s whereabouts.
It should be noted that the location of this shooting was actually in the city of Antioch. Due to the fact that neither officer was familiar with the exact location and there were no street signs readily apparent, they had determined that one of them needed to run to Desrye Boulevard to identify the street and possibly a cross street.
Obviously, it was critical that the officers be able to describe their exact location. Galer ran to the intersection of Desrye Boulevard and Belle Drive and put the cross street out over the radio. At that moment, he observed his brother, Les Galer, traveling directly at him on Desrye Boulevard and approaching Belle Drive. After he announced his location, Phil then ran back along the trail to assist Florence. At the same time, Officer Les Galer turned off of Desrye Boulevard onto the trail and crashed through a locked gate on the trail. Eventually, he stopped within a few feet of Florence to provide him with cover. It was at that point that the officers took cover behind Les Galer’s patrol vehicle. Les Galer was armed with his AR-15.
While the three officers were at the scene, they were continuing to yell at the suspects to come out. Although they tried desperately to discern the exact location of the suspects, they simply could not see through the thick brush. Shortly thereafter, another patrol car driven by Officers McSorley and Anderson arrived at the location, and drove onto the trail and parked immediately to the left of Les Galer’s vehicle.
All of the officers on the scene knew that Lasater was lying on the ground and they felt the need to take immediate action. Therefore, Officers Phil Galer and Florence decided to move away from the patrol vehicles toward the location of Lasater. After traveling a distance of approximately five-to-15 feet from the vehicle, one of the suspects began firing shots from their location in the overgrown vegetation. It was at that point that Les Galer returned fire with his AR-15 and, at the same time, Phil Galer and Florence dropped to the ground and attempted to return to the vehicle for cover. Phil Galer also returned fire as he crawled back to the patrol car.
Shortly after the officers were again behind the patrol vehicle, they continued to yell at the suspects to come out. Eventually, a suspect came out from the brush area. A verbal exchange occurred and the suspect indicated that he did not shoot the officer, but that the other suspect had done so. He pointed back in the bushes and said something to the effect that “he had done it.” The suspect was placed into handcuffs and taken to a patrol vehicle.
At or about the time that the suspect was being placed into handcuffs, it was determined that a protective shield in the trunk of Sgt. Calia’s patrol vehicle, parked in the area, would be retrieved and that officers would attempt a rescue of Lasater. When the shield was retrieved from Calia’s vehicle, Phil and Les Galer then positioned themselves behind the shield and moved in to rescue Lasater. At this point, both officers huddled behind the shield and approached Lasater. Phil Galer reached down and pulled Lasater approximately 40-to-50 feet away from the location where he had been shot. They dragged him in a direction away from Desrye Boulevard. They moved in this direction so as to not cross the line of the suspect’s potential fire.
It was at that point that Les Galer then picked up Lasater and carried him to the other side of the trail directly away from the suspect’s location. As they arrived at the other side of the trail, a patrol vehicle had driven up to their location. The officers then began to apply CPR and called for emergency medical to assist them. Apparently, a paramedic and a firefighter ran to their location. Lasater was eventually placed into an ambulance and then into a helicopter and taken to John Muir Medical Center.
Shortly after Lasater was taken from the scene, the officers at the scene learned that the Antioch Police Department had taken the second suspect into custody several blocks away from where the shooting occurred. In retrospect, it is now apparent that when Florence heard someone attempting to climb a fence, it was the sound of the other suspect climbing the fence and leaving the trail area. It should be noted that all of the officers on the scene assumed, and rightly so, that the second suspect was still in the bushes after the first suspect surrendered.
As it has been reported, Lasater was eventually taken to John Muir Medical Center. We were advised that he had taken two shots, one to the neck, which had severed his spinal cord. The second shot was in his thigh. A few days later, Lasater was taken off life support and his organs were donated.
Finally, the law firm of Rains, Lucia & Wilkinson has over the year represented perhaps hundreds of police officers in shooting incidents. Frankly, I have never experienced first hand the heroism which was displayed by the officers involved in this incident. These officers, as described above, literally put their lives at risk in an attempt to rescue Lasater. Their acts of bravery may never be fully appreciated. However, from the perspective of both myself and Mary Sansen, we can, without equivocation, say that these officers were, in fact, heroes and should be acknowledged for their acts of heroism and bravery. Sansen and I felt honored to assist them and we will never forget their acts of selflessness and courage.
PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.
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- Christopher Wells Hollister POA
My rep was great.
- Jurell Snyder Oakland POA
My LDF representative had a power point presentation, which was extremely professional.
- Joe Charvez Santa Clara Co DSA
I could not be happier with the interest, work put into my case, and assistance from [my representative]. Thanks !!
- Jonathan Smith San Diego D.A. Investigators
I couldn't be happier or more satisfied with my LDF Representative, the process and the outcome of my case.
- Brian Schopf Elk Grove POA
Keep up the good work.
- Russell Wise Alameda POA
- Robert Morales Rialto PBA
I was very pleased with the service I received
- William Burdette Newport Beach PMA
26 years and I have never needed a LDF rep, but the one time you need one, it was worth the fee’s paid.”
- Derwin Longmire Oakland POA
Outstanding [law firm] - incredible firm. And, LDF was easy to work and correspond with.
- Christopher Boyd Carlsbad POA
[My representative] was an outstanding attorney to work with. Even though I did not receive a desirable outcome entirely, I was exceptionally satisfied with his representation. Thank you.
- Anthony Zack Vernon POA
This was the first time in my twenty-five year career that I had to use the services of my legal defense fund. My LDF Representative was extremely courteous, informative and professional.. She addressed all of my concerns and answered all of my questions. She did an overall outstanding job of representing me and handling my case. I could not have been any more pleased or satisfied with the job she did! I would definitely request her to represent me in the future if I needed representation.
- Kim Prout Upland Firefighters Assoc
It was great comfort to know somebody would be there for me in this matter. I was able to finally sleep @ night & wake up with confidence that I would be ok. Thanks.
- Yvonne Heuston ERS/SPPOA Supervisors
My representative was outstanding and knew what to lookout for and how to handle situations as they appeared. He told me what to expect and how he proposed to handle the hurdles. Just telling what to expect helped put me at ease as the situation was so foreign to me, and intimidating.
- Alex Camarillo LASchool P A
[My Representative] did an excellent job with my case. He was very professional and kept me well informed throughout this case. Thank you for an awesome job.
- Matthew Gardner Colorado PPA
I would not want to be an officer without this coverage. It was great to have it and kept my mind at ease.
- Emery Eccle Culver City POA
LDF is THE most important asset / resource that police officers have. "Thank you" to all involved and keep up the good work!
- Marco Flores Ventura County PPOA
Great program. I was lost until the attorneys explained the situation. I was very impressed and satisfied. Thanks LDF.
- Robert Curato Anderson POA
He did a great job for me!!! He always returned my phone calls within 24-hours. He showed an interest in my case and we were able to get the issue resolved in less than 45 minutes. Thank you for being there when I needed the legal assistance.
- Anthony Russo Clark Co School District
The members of my Association are very pleased with the level of representation that PORAC has given to us. As the President I can not thank you all enough.
- Larry Fitch Shasta Co DSA
My LDF rep was great, always returned my calls quickly and kept me up to date with what was going on with the case. Thank you.
- Chris Moore Palo Alto POA
No Complaints. Great Resource.
- Chad Sakamoto National City POA
Although this incident was unfounded, it's still stressful. My LDF rep kept me informed and kept "work" at work.
- Thomas E. Lorente III Bart POA
[My representative] did an excellent job! I would highly recommend him to any officer in need of LDF services.
- Dan McDow San Luis Obispo POA
[My representative] is the poster face representative of the greatest attorney (representative) that anyone could possibly ask for. She gets a 12 out of 10 star rating. Nobody works harder.
- William DeWitt CPPA
Everything was awesome...could not be happier!
- Paul Barrolaza Twin Cities POA
- Nancy Page Aurora PA
I didn't end up needing his service but he was awesome in what conversations we had before the matter was resolved. Very valuable - LDF!
- Scot Hicks Humbolt County DSO
My experience was made much less stressful thanks to the LDF representation.
- Noe Cordero San Diego POA
Thank you for your help. I feel very secure as you assisted me.
- Nick Bannister Phoenix LEA
I was extremely grateful for professional representation provided by ( my attorney ) during this extremely stressful situation
- Jason Walters Claremont POA
LDF was very informative and provided me with the direction on how to handle my case. I was very happy with LDF and their staff.
- Scott Hamilton San Bernardino Co SEBA
Don't go to work without LDF!
- Diana Drummey Coronado POA
I so appreciated my LDF rep - his kindness and understanding re my case during an embarrassing and uncomfortable time - he was so caring.
- Kenneth S. Blonski East Bay Regional Parks PMA
I was very pleased with my representative.
- William Jackson Santa Maria POA
Keep up the great work.
- Kenneth Nelson Plumas Co SA
Good job. Thank you! [My representative] does an outstanding job representing the employees and seems to be very intimidating to the [County Management]. We like it this way!
- Keith Stiver Hayward POA
[My representative] brings a superlative reputation, a comforting and confidence building demeanor and a clear expertise to the table. In particular I appreciate her philosophy that she gives her total undivided attention to her clients during their appointments.
- Malcolm Norrington LA School PA
I am very pleased with LDF and would use and recommend them again and again and again.
- German Alvarez Anaheim PA
[My representative ] was great!
- Billy Aldridge Chico POA
[My representative] was awesome! He provided an excellent explanation of the process and was very professional. This was my first IA in 11 years of LE and [my representative] did a great job of reassuring me that I had nothing to worry about. Thank you so much for all your help.
- James Beckman Miracosta College POA
Excellent service everytime.
- Christopher Connally Assn of LEA
To whom it may concern: Let me start by saying how much I appreciate the opportunity to join the PORAC Legal Defense Fund. This is a great benefit for our membership. During the past twelve months I was fortunate to have access to the Legal Defense Fund through MPCA. Earlier this year I was both surprise, and disappointed, when realized that I needed to provide counsel to mediate pending litigation. In accessing the Legal Defense Fund I found your staff to be very professional and reassuring. The staff felt that [my representative]., would be the best ft for the situation. I would like to take the opportunity to express my appreciation for being represented by [Rick Barry]. Not only was he a good fit for the circumstances, at times it seemed as if he was the only attorney out of several involved that really had a grasp on the issues. Again, I would like to thank the PORAC staff, and know that I could not have been better served than by what was provided by [my representative].
- Andrew Hill Statewide University PA
I have used this law firm for union related business for the last several years. It was a no brainer to call them for LDF.
- Juan Pascua, Jr. San Diego Co DSA
Very helpful and very informative!
- Cathleen Weldon Siskiyou Correctional POA
Very Comforting to have a knowledgeable person looking out for my best inerests. Thx!
- Kristen Patterson Contra Costa Co Prob. Assn.
[My representative] was helpful and made me feel supported. I got the results I desired. Very pleased with the process.
- Clyde Williams San Diego Harbor POA
Thank you for all of the work related to my officer involved shooting case.
- Tyler Robins Pasadena City College POA
At a time when no one cares about you it's nice to have someone on your side who does. (My attorney ) made a stressful six months a lot more tolerable.
- Brad Young Oakland POA
[ My representative ] is an awesome attorney.
- Omar Daza-Quiroz Oakland POA
I have had (2) two cases in which LDF represented me. Both lawyers were exceptionally professional, intelligent and caring for me. They were friendly and very helpful.
- Richard Salcido Brea PA
LDF is a great organization that not only helps their clients but many of those around them such as coworkers and family members.
- Steven E. Lopez Santa Maria POA
Keep up the Good Work! Your service was extremely helpful to me. Thank you.
- Adam Laird Eureka POA
Dear PORAC Legal Defense Fund, This email has been weighing on my heart and should have been sent a long time ago. However, time seems to move fast even though your life has been put on hold. I have been on administrative leave since December of 2012. In April of 2013, I was arrested for the performance of my duties. Since the administrative side this case has not been resolved, I won't be getting into specific details regarding my case. However, I will say that I never thought that my life would turned upside down by doing the job that I love, and doing it in a way that I had been trained. I have been in Law Enforcement for 10 years, and I have been paying my monthly dues all along. I never really understood how important paying dues might be for me, I just thought it was the "cost of business". After being arrested, I understood the real worth of that investment. Because of politics, my case was given the "full court press". On January 3rd of 2014, the case against me was dismissed. It took no less than 5 experts to convince the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office to request dismissal. The time, effort, and money that this case cost couldn't have been endured by me as the sole provider of a family of four. LDF was there, big time. The panel attorney's under LDF were the best in the business. In the uncertain time during the criminal process, I couldn't have imagined how much help they could be. What a relief to know that LDF had my back. I am used to defending those who can't defend themselves. That's my job. When I was defenseless, LDF and the attorneys assigned to my case were my advocates and defenders. I thank you. My criminal attorney said it best at the conclusion of my criminal case: "Adam and his family are thankful that they can now move forward. The evidence showing Sgt. Laird was innocent was overwhelming. The expert EPD hired said that the suspect was rising up when Sgt. Laird pushed him back to the ground. The two experts that the DA’s office hired said that the force was reasonable and appropriate. The defensive tactics instructor who trained Adam said he acted consistent with his training in apprehending a high risk suspect in a dangerous situation. In total, five separate police practices experts reviewed the case and unanimously said Sgt. Laird acted appropriately". "It is hard to imagine what it must be like to risk your life apprehending a known gang member only to be charged with using excessive force when the suspect stated that he did not even feel the contact at issue. It is simply bizarre that Sgt. Laird was ever charged with a crime". Thank you. My family and I will forever be grateful for your service, Sergeant Adam Laird
- Craig Caches Fremont POA
I have only used LDF once for myself, which with the circumstance was great. I work with LDF in my assignment ( OIS investigator ) and after approximately 4-5 OIS's, I have great experiences with LDF.
- Rick Stephens Alpine CO DSA
My representative was very good. I highly recommend my lawyer to anyone.
- Stephanie Haas Lyon Co SEA
When I first contacted LDF re: my case I was unsure of how well/poor I'd actually be represented. I was impressed beyond belief. From the timely responses from my attorney, his knowledge in my case, advising me what my rights were and where I stood. I felt like I was genuinely being protected from unwarranted and unfounded accusations and believe, as long as I am in the right, I have someone fighting for me. Thank you, Thank you.
- Todd Costa Santa Clara Co DSA
This was my first Internal Affairs investigation, my lawyer walked me through every step and answered all of my questions, without my lawyer's advice, I would have been lost throughout the investigation and a complete disadvantage against my department.
- Rachel Tyner Transit EOA of San Diego
All the LDF representatives were very courteous and attentive with a punctual response to all of my concerns, inquiries and appointment scheduling. My representative was very informative about the legalities and kept in contact with me regularly. He was also very patient and straight forward. I would definitely want to use the LDF again and felt more confident through my proceedings because I had representation!
- Michael Kan Palo Alto POA
I have always been and will continue to be a strong supporter of LDF and would not work as a police officer without it. I am extremely happy with the service I have received both from LDF and [my representative].
- Patricia Goss San Anselmo POA
[My Representative] is fabulous! Thanks for all the exra work she did for me!