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MONTERY COUNTY – On October 25, 2022 a Monterey County jury found Ari Gold, 27, of Salinas, guilty of assault with a semiautomatic firearm on a peace officer, brandishing a firearm in the presence of a peace officer, driving under the influence of a drug, and hit-and-run. Prior to the trial, Gold pled no contest to a felony violation of vehicle theft. The jury also found that Gold personally used a firearm when he assaulted the peace officer.
On July 23, 2019, Gold was in Monterey and smoked a substantial amount of marijuana and methamphetamine. Early that evening, Gold stole a truck from Monterey and drove it, while under the influence of methamphetamine, to his grandmother’s house in the Toro Park neighborhood of Monterey County. While on the way to his grandmother’s house, Gold was observed driving dangerously on and off the road. At one point, Gold nearly collided with another occupied vehicle on the road. Gold then crashed into a parked car while swerving to avoid the occupied one. Gold fled the scene without stopping and went to his grandmother’s house, in violation of a condition of his misdemeanor probation, which prohibited him from going to that house without his grandmother’s explicit permission.
California Highway Patrol officers Kristi Cho and Chris Weaver responded to 911 calls for the reckless driving and the collision. Neighbors identified the house Gold fled to. When the CHP officers ran a background check on the stolen truck and the home, they were incorrectly informed that the truck was not stolen, and the house did not have any prior calls for service. During that time, Gold’s grandmother and the owner of the house arrived. She informed the officers that no one was supposed to be home, and that she did not recognize the vehicle in her driveway. Gold’s grandmother then asked the officers to check the house and to be sure it was safe for her to enter.
The officers requested a K9 unit but were told there was none available or in the immediate area. As a result, the two officers went into the house at the homeowner’s request. During a search of the home, Officer Cho found Gold hiding behind a shower curtain in the master bathroom, while Officer Weaver was just outside of the bathroom. Both officers ordered Gold to get down on the ground. Without warning, Gold quickly reached behind the shower curtain, outside of Officer Cho’s view, grabbed a loaded semiautomatic .45 caliber model 1911 handgun, and pointed it at Officer Cho. The handgun had a live round in the chamber, the thumb safety was off, and the hammer was cocked. Had Gold pulled the trigger, the firearm would have fired a round at Officer Cho who was standing six feet away.
In response, Officer Cho began firing at Gold and as she backed out of the bathroom entrance, she fell to the ground. Officer Weaver, hearing the shots and seeing Officer Cho fall to the ground, began firing through the wall of the bathroom, believing that Officer Cho had been shot. Officer Cho continued to fire her weapon as she backed away to cover while still on the floor. Officer Weaver fired rounds into the bathroom from different angles through the wall. Once behind cover, Officer Cho stood up and reloaded her weapon while Officer Weaver repositioned to the side of the bathroom door exit. After a brief period of time, without warning or announcement, Gold rushed
out of the bathroom, still armed with the firearm, and was fired at by Officer Weaver. The first few shots missed Gold, so he then rushed back into the bathroom. However, as Gold rushed back into the bathroom, Officer Weaver shot Gold in the upper spine which instantly paralyzed Gold below the neck.
Both officers then saw the model 1911 handgun at the location where Gold rushed out of the bathroom and was shot at by Officer Weaver. The officers found Gold lying just inside of the entrance to the bathroom, on his back, with an air soft rifle on his lap. The model 1911 handgun was just a couple feet away from Gold’s feet. Upon realizing Gold was injured, the officers then began to render aid and called for an ambulance. Over the course of the shooting, CHP officers fired 44 rounds and Gold did not fire any in response. Gold received two gunshot wounds, one to the hip and one to the spine. Crime scene evidence showed that Gold had been shot in the hip by a bullet that went through the wall of bathroom while Gold was still inside the bathroom. Scene evidence showed that Gold was still walking around the bathroom until the very end of the shooting.
A sample of Gold’s blood was obtained eight hours after the incident. His blood was tested by the California Department of Justice for drug levels. Even after that period of time, Gold’s methamphetamine and amphetamine blood levels were still substantially elevated and consistent with chronic methamphetamine abuse and a high level of intoxication.
Gold testified in his own defense and alleged that he was sitting on the toilet of the bathroom when Officer Cho opened the bathroom door. Gold stated that upon seeing the officer, he immediately threw his firearm to her, and the officers started shooting at him. He testified he was paralyzed early in the shooting. He denied ever walking to the part of the bathroom where Officer Cho said she found him. However, upon being confronted with multiple crime scene photographs which showed his version of events was not possible, Gold at one point admitted that the events may not have happened as he remembered. Additionally, near the end of his testimony, Gold testified to a fact that directly contradicted his earlier testimony. When asked to explain the discrepancy, Gold admitted that he simply answered “yes” to a suggestive question from his attorney which he didn’t know the answer to, solely because it was his attorney making the suggestion.
The jury deliberated for two and half days and found Gold guilty of all charges and enhancements which were alleged. Judge Mark Hood will preside over the sentencing on December 6, 2022. Gold’s maximum possible sentence is 10 years, 8 months in state prison. The case was primarily investigated by DA Investigator Alicia Cox and former DA Investigator Jorge Gutierrez.