"Parolee's family questions death in sheriff's deputy shooting"

By Sarah Ostman
Lathrop/Manteca Sun Post
Feb. 1, 2008

MANTECA — The family of a former Manteca man killed by a sheriff’s deputy in northern Stockton last week is questioning officials’ reports of what happened in the moments leading up to his death.

San Joaquin County Sheriff’s reports state that Casey Gollihar, 36, tried to run down deputy Robert Semillo with his car during questioning Monday, Jan. 21, prompting the deputy to shoot in self-defense. Gollihar was wanted for parole violation.

But Gollihar’s brother, Dennis Williamson of Manteca, believes the positioning of Gollihar’s car and a gunshot wound to his back indicate that he was trying to flee when he was shot and the deputy was not in danger.

“It doesn’t add up,” said Williamson, 44, an engineering manager for a tool manufacturer. “He was trying to run, trying to get away, but I don’t think he was putting anyone in danger.”

Gollihar and his friend, John Rasberry, were outside Rasberry’s apartment complex at 10400 N. Lower Sacramento Road when Semillo approached them for questioning shortly after 1 p.m., according to sheriff’s reports.

As Semillo waited for back up, Gollihar grew visibly anxious, jumped in his car and tried to run Semillo down, the reports said.

However, Williamson said he can't figure out how Gollihar could have been aiming for the deputy.

Gollihar had to reverse out of a carport to make his escape, according to a neighbor interviewed by the Sun Post and investigators’ markings painted on the pavement. And Gollihar’s car moved only about six feet before coming to a halt, the markings show.

Sheriff’s spokesman Les Garcia refused to give further details or allow the Sun Post to view the cars, citing an ongoing investigation. Rasberry could not be reached for comment.

But Williamson said a witness to the scene told him that bullets had punctured Gollihar’s car through the driver’s side door, indicating that the deputy was beside the car at the time of the shooting, and not in its path. The deputy’s car, which was parked behind Gollihar’s, was left untouched, Williamson said.

A representative of P.L. Fry & Son Funeral Home confirmed that Gollihar was shot several times, including at least once in the back.

Williamson said he would await the results of the official investigation before deciding whether to sue for wrongful death. Garcia said he did not know when the investigation would be complete.

Gollihar’s criminal record included at least eight felony and misdemeanor convictions since 1992, including assault and battery, auto theft and drug possession, court records show.

At the time of his death, he was on parole from a 2005 conviction for driving while intoxicated and evading arrest.

A failed drug test led to Gollihar’s parole violation, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Bill Cessa said, and he had dodged several phone calls from his parole officer.

Stockton Crime Stoppers released a report Jan. 14 that called for information about Gollihar and described him as “armed and dangerous.”

The description was likely due to Gollihar’s prior felony convictions, Cessa said. If convicted a third time, he would have faced 25 years to life under the state’s “three strikes” law.

There are no firearms charges in Gollihar’s record. He was arrested for assault in 2000.

While reports of Gollihar’s death have played up his criminal history, Williamson paints a different picture of his brother — a family man who always provided for his children.

“He wasn’t a big mean guy. He was a teddy bear,” Williamson said. “When he stayed clean and had work, he was fine. When he ran out of work, that’s when he started trying to find money somehow … you gotta make rent and feed the baby. It doesn’t make it right, but that’s what he did.”

Gollihar lived in Stockton at the time of his death. He is survived by a wife, Michelle Gollihar, and two children, with a third expected in July.

Semillo, a 6-1/2 year veteran of the sheriff's department, took a three-day mandatory leave following the incident.