Contra Costa County DA Office Finds Officer Lawfully Shot Man in Deadly Struggle

(Photo courtesy of the Contra Costa County Sheriff)

By Annette Wong-Toi

MARTINEZ, CA – In 2018, a Contra Costa County deputy fired and shot a man eight times while the man was on the ground. Although the victim was left dead after the shooting, multiple investigations have deemed that it was lawful.

Additionally, a news release now from the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office reports it has concluded its criminal investigation for this case. And found no wrongdoing by the deputy.

On the morning of Dec. 5, 2018, Deputy Matthew Gauthier saw Paul Ridgeway while he was on patrol from his vehicle. The deputy recognized him because of an outstanding arrest warrant and his alleged ties to gang activity. According to the DA’s Office, he was a “known gang member with ties to the Family Affiliated Irish Mafia (FAIM).”

After parking his vehicle out of Ridgeway’s sight, the officer began to approach him with the intent of “[taking] him into custody for the outstanding arrest warrant,” according to the DA’s Office.

Despite Ridgeway attempting to run from the officer upon seeing him, Gauthier was able to tackle him to the ground.

The DA’s public report for this incident mentions that the deputy “didn’t know if Ridgeway was armed or not” and “pulled out his firearm and pointed it at Ridgeway’s head while he [was] still on Ridgeway’s back.”

On the ground face-down, Ridgeway armed himself with his own Daewoo 9mm semi-automatic pistol, and proceeded to shoot at Deputy Gauthier, “barely missing his face.”

The deputy rose to his knees and shot twice at Ridgeway, “seeing that [he] was still in possession of the firearm” on the ground. He then “stood up and continued to fire at him.”

The DA’s Office reported that Ridgeway died after being shot eight times at the scene of the encounter, during which the deputy was allegedly “unsure of how many rounds he fired at Ridgeway.”

Deputy Gauthier notified an ambulance of the shooting immediately after it occurred. While he and none of the other five witnesses present were physically harmed, the paramedics that responded to this call pronounced Ridgeway deceased at the scene.

The investigation of this incident was to determine whether a crime had been committed leading up to the fatal encounter.  According to the Law Enforcement Involved Fatal Incidents Protocol, the agency involved in any fatal shooting must “notify the appropriate district attorney personnel.”

Once they were made aware of the situation, officials from Contra Costa County DA’s Office and multiple other county law enforcement agencies conducted their own separate investigations to assess any criminal liability.

Even though these investigations occurred simultaneously, the DA’s Office states that “it is important to note that… each agency conducts its own independent investigation.”

To collect more information about what happened, witnesses of the incident “may be interviewed, evidence is collected at the scene and may be submitted to the county crime lab for testing and analysis, in addition to any other relevant investigative work necessary” for a thorough criminal investigation.

At the end of their public report, the DA’s Office states it had not found sufficient evidence “to support a criminal prosecution against Deputy Gauthier. As such, no further action will be taken in this case.”

About The Author

Annette Wong-Toi is a third-year student at UC Davis studying Psychology and Communication. If she isn't learning how to play a new instrument or taking a nap, she's probably feeding the stray cats outside her apartment. She hopes to develop her listening and communication skills to be a better student, writer, and friend.

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