A Clackamas County judge on Wednesday sentenced Yvette Lares Garcia to 10 years in prison for shooting at Gladstone police officers last year while they tried to help her with her two dogs.
An unusual chain of events led to the Nov. 22 shootout, according to court records and testimony.
Officer Clement Lau stopped Garcia, now 37, in his patrol car after she rolled through an intersection in Gladstone on that drizzly night. He then arrested Garcia, who’d just left a 24-hour fitness gym, after discovering she had a warrant in Texas for felony first-degree theft.
With the help of Sgt. Travis Hill, Lau took Garcia to the police department where, while handcuffed to a bench, she repeatedly said she was worried about her two dogs at home.
Hill and Lau were sympathetic; they offered to drive to her Happy Valley townhouse and take the dogs to animal control. Officers captured the arrest and what happened next on body-worn cameras.
The trio entered through the garage and then encountered two large, excited dogs — one gray and one black and white. Lau and Hill can be heard asking if the American Bully XL dogs were friendly. On camera, Lau takes the gray dog by the leash. Off camera, Garcia and Hill try to lure the other dog, saying “Wanna go for a walk?”
With her hands behind her back and in handcuffs, Garcia walked upstairs to get a leash. She grabbed a 9 mm handgun instead and fired at Hill, the video showed.
On the video, Hill can be heard screaming in pain as he retreats back down the steps. “Gun!” he yells. Lau fires up the steps, and Garcia can be heard yelping. “Drop the gun or you’ll be shot again,” Lau shouts.
“No” she says twice. She fires again.
Lau reloads, and a gunfight ensues. Lau asks for a tourniquet and a shield to get to Hill. When backup comes, Lau runs inside toward Hill, who is lying in a living room, bleeding from his leg. Garcia, who was shot multiple times, rests motionless on the stairs. She suffered severe injuries in her leg, spine, arm and abdomen, her lawyer said during a 10-hour release hearing in January.
Ten months later, Hill said the gunshot wounds forced him to leave his 20-year career in law enforcement.
Garcia shot him once in the arm and once just below the knee, causing permanent nerve damage to his leg and foot. He can also no longer go on bike rides or play on the trampoline with his three young children, he said in court.
On Wednesday, he held back tears.
“We treated you with the utmost dignity and respect,” he said in his victim impact statement. “My kids don’t understand how or why you would do something that causes me so much pain. They have watched as I’ve fought through the physical pain and discomfort every single day.”
Garcia avoid a trial by pleading “no contest” to the most serious charge against her: aggravated attempted murder.
She pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and attempt to commit a Class B felony.
Clackamas County Circuit Judge Cody Weston said Garcia will receive credit for the 10 months she has already spent in custody. She will be required to serve an additional three years on parole and pay $50,000 in restitution.
Prosecutor Scott Healy said in court that he spoke with Texas officials who intend to extradite Garcia to face charges there for allegedly embezzling $1.4 million from an oil company where she worked in Ector County.
Garcia’s defense attorney, Michael Romano, said in court that his client was suicidal last November.
She comes from a very large and loving family in Odessa, Texas, but she fled her home state in 2020 to escape an ex-husband and domestic violence, Romano said. By the winter of 2021, she was severely depressed and isolated amid the pandemic, headed in a “downward spiral” that Romano said he didn’t feel was accurately depicted during the case’s initial hearings.
“The only things she had going for her were her dogs and her physical fitness,” Romano said.
Garcia closed her eyes and wiped tears as her attorney spoke.
Romano said Garcia was completely unaware of the warrant for her arrest in Texas, and her plea to police to help her with her dogs wasn’t a “big ruse” to hurt the officers. She wanted to die.
“Her plan was to die at home, having law enforcement shoot her, that’s why she didn’t put the gun down in the stairwell,” Romano said. “She wanted law enforcement, with all due respect, to finish the job. Her plan was to commit suicide by cop. It’s not a justification, certainly not an excuse, but it is an explanation.”
Speaking softly as he delivered the sentence, the judge acknowledged Garcia’s defense.
“But it doesn’t excuse or justify what happened,” Weston said, looking at Garcia. “For what it’s worth, I hope that prison can serve a rehabilitative role for you.”
Garcia, appearing in a gray striped Clackamas County jail uniform, apologized in court.
“I turned a great act of kindness and humanity into something horrific. You were able to see my anguish over my fur babies and went out of your way to help me. I remember you relating to me with your love of your dogs,” she said of Hill. “That stays with me and I think about that all the time.”
Through tears she also addressed her family, many of whom appeared by teleconference in court.
“Discúlpame,” she said. “Hasta que estemos juntos.”
– Savannah Eadens; email@example.com; 503-221-6651; @savannaheadens
Our journalism needs your support. Please become a subscriber today at OregonLive.com/subscribe