Watertown police officer involved in fatal traffic stop cleared of criminal wrongdoing

Watertown Police

WATERTOWN, Wis. — The Watertown police officer involved in a fatal traffic stop in late May has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing, according to the Jefferson County District Attorney.

Jefferson County District Attorney Monica J. Hall released a statement Monday saying that the officer’s use of force was lawful because he was reportedly acting in self-defense.

Watertown Police Officer Pedro Gallegos was the officer who initiated the traffic stop.

One man, 32-year-old Thomas J. Sutherlin, was killed in the shooting. An autopsy conducted in June by the University of Wisconsin Pathology Department revealed Sutherlin died of a self-inflicted shot to the head. Officials said he had no other gunshot wounds.

Hall’s decision came after the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation launched an investigation into the incident. Hall said she did not find any criminal activity in the evidence provided by the Watertown Police Department.

According to the release, Gallegos initiated a traffic stop for a burnt out taillight. During the incident, police used a taser on Sutherlin after he refused to get out of the vehicle. A short time later, Sutherlin reportedly fired two shots from the backseat of the vehicle he was in. Gallegos returned fire, but none of the shots had actually hit Sutherlin.