Gang cop-shooters sentenced

Gang cop-shooters sentenced
“Miracle” survivor officer gets wish

Rod Leveque, Staff Writer
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

RANCHO CUCAMONGA – Officer Kevin Goltara could have said anything he wanted Friday to the two gangbangers who once tried to ki*l him. He could have scolded them for pumping hot bullets into his body. He could have wished them eternal damnation, or a violent death in prison. But instead, the soft-spoken Fontana policeman stood in court in front of a judge, his family and the men who shot him, and calmly asked for only two things: Maximum prison sentences for Raymundo Lopez and Vincent Rodriguez, and an end to the senseless gang violence that nearly ki*led him. “Gangs are a bunch of cowards,” he said.

After hearing Goltara’s words, a judge Friday granted one of the officer’s two wishes. He sentenced Lopez and Rodriguez to multiple life prison terms for the attempted murder of Goltara, who nearly died after he was shot in the neck, back and wrist during what started as a routine traffic stop in Fontana. Judge Michael Libutti said the maximum sentences were warranted because the shooting of Goltara was “egregious, callous and evil.” The judge then called the 29-year-old officer’s survival nothing short of a miracle. “Officer Goltara is someone who probably would have given the shirt off his back,” Libutti told Lopez and Rodriguez moments after sentencing the South Fontana gang members in West Valley Superior Court. “But instead, he was shot in the back.”

Lopez shot Goltara March 15, 2003, when the officer stopped him and Rodriguez on Barbee Street in a stolen Pontiac that Rodriguez carjacked a day before. The car had no license plates, so Goltara didn’t know what he was getting into when he walked to the driver’s side window and asked the two men to show their hands. That’s when Lopez pulled a gun from between his legs and started shooting. Goltara, bloodied and riddled with bullet holes, retreated to the front bumper of his patrol car as the Pontiac sped away. He stayed there, applying pressure to his neck wound, until help came because he didn’t want to bleed inside his department-issued vehicle.
He was rushed to the hospital with the help of a good Samaritan and his fellow officers, and survived after emergency surgery.

Jurors convicted Lopez, 37, and Rodriguez, 20, in June of attempting to murder the peace officer and other crimes. Rodriguez was also convicted of carjacking.
Libutti on Friday sentenced Lopez to 44 years to life behind bars. Rodriguez was sentenced to 65 to life, his term being stiffer for the carjacking. Both plan to appeal.
Before Libutti pronounced judgment on the duo, the judge gave Goltara and his father a chance to describe the impact the shooting had on their lives.

The modest officer, however, instead used his platform to name the seven California peace officers ki*led by gang members in the two years since he was shot.
Goltara, without a hint of anger in his voice, then called gang members “cowards,” “domestic terrorists” and a “cancer on society,” and asked Libutti to make an example of Lopez and Rodriguez. “This is why I feel gang members should get the maximum for these types of crimes,” he said. “It’s the only way to send a message it will not be tolerated.”

Goltara’s dad, Gary, told the judge his family relives the fear of the shooting whenever they get a late-night phone call, or whenever they see a police shooting on the news.
Gary Goltara paused Friday morning in the lobby of the Rancho Cucamonga courthouse near a statue honoring peace officers ki*led in the line of duty. “I recognized today how close my son was to being one of the names on that memorial,” he told the judge.

Kevin Goltara, meanwhile, has returned to work, undeterred by his near-death experience.
He said outside court Friday that the bullet wounds and his agonizing recovery have not diminished his pblankion for police work. When asked how he stayed so calm during his chance to face down his shooters, he said he simply couldn’t muster rage or hatred toward them. They will waste their lives away in prison, he said, while he has a new appreciation for life. “I’m happy the way things turned out,” Goltara said. “I’m alive. I’ve got my family and friends. What more can you ask for?”

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