Thomas testifies in shooting Carpet Connection owner takes witness stand
FALLON — Believing in his innocence, Keith Alan Thomas took the witness stand on Wednesday in the Tenth Judicial District Court.Thomas of Carson City was questioned about the shooting on Aug. 16, 2011, of Michael Gallardo, which led to the Churchill County District Attorney’s Office to charge Thomas with battery with a deadly weapon causing substantial bodily harm and assault with a deadly weapon. If convicted, Thomas faces three to 21 years in prison for both felonies.Thursday’s testimony centered on Carpet Connection employees who said they were threatened by Gallardo and James Kelley, the father of Savahanna Kelley, who had dated Gallardo for several years.Savahanna Kelley, according to testimony, was trying to avoid Gallardo throughout the day on Aug. 16, 2011, although he appeared at Kelley’s job at Carpet Connection to confront Thomas about a possible romantic relationship between the two.On Wednesday, however, Thomas testified he knew of previous threats to his employees from Gallardo. In those threats, Gallardo said he would kill employees Rusty Lemus and Rod Marty and a former boyfriend of Kelley’s in Gabbs.The incidents with Lemus and Marty occurred in 2006, which allowed Thomas’ attorney Steve Evenson to draw a pattern of behavior for the jury. Thomas said he knew Gallardo carried a weapon and took a CCW class in February 2011 with Thomas’ brother and Kelley. In addition, Gallardo also threatened to kill James Kelley.Thomas also testified about Gallardo’s fighting at bars, which were relayed to Thomas by Kelley.James Kelley, Lemus and Marty all testified to threats they received over the phone and in person. Lemus said he received at least two calls from Gallardo threatening physical harm.Thomas spoke about the day of the shooting when he received three text messages from Gallardo. Thomas said he called his brother and asked to borrow his gun for self defense, which Thomas acquired.When Gallardo came to the store at about 3 p.m., Thomas said he saw Gallardo, went to his car and picked up the .40-caliber Sig Sauer pistol. Thomas then called 911.“I felt it was the only way to defend myself,” he said. “I wanted them (police) to come and protect me. I was threatened, and I felt like I could be killed or harmed.”Thomas said Gallardo came toward him and raised his hands in a fighting demeanor. Thomas said the threat was imminent, so he aimed the pistol at Gallardo’s left knee and fired a round into his abdomen.According to Thomas, none of the measurements taken by the Churchill County Sheriff’s Office about the distance between the two at the time of the shot does not indicate where Thomas was standing.CCSO Deputy Ronald Bell testified earlier the distance was 185 feet, 8 inches, which is from the spent shell casing to Gallardo’s blood found across the parking lot. The distance is the source of Thomas’ self-defense claim.Thomas said he told deputies he was between 40 and 60 feet from Gallardo.If Thomas did not shoot, he said, “to me it’s a matter of being dead or brain dead.”Chief Deputy District Attorney Lane Mills peppered Thomas with questions including why he did not immediately contact police after receiving the first text message. Thomas said authorities never acted in the past, so there was no reason to call.Mills also asked why Thomas did not return to the back of the warehouse, where Thomas had exited the store before the shooting. Mills also questioned Thomas about having the locks and control over the doors of the warehouse.Thomas denied moving the shell casing after the shot, but he did not deny no visual contact with a weapon in Gallardo’s possession. In addition, Thomas also took an ax handle from the business and put it into his car for protection, although Mills wondered why the handle was necessary and if Thomas had thought about the situation before it occurred.Earlier in the day, CCSO Deputy Todd Keller testified he was the first responder and quickly assessed the situation. He searched Thomas and placed him on the curb and then attended to Gallardo’s injury. Keller said Gallardo told him Thomas was about “40 feet, maybe more” from Gallardo.Orozoco’s testimony also centered on the 911 timeline he created for the case.Evenson questioned Orozco about why no CCSO official searched Kelley’s Chevy Silverado, since her truck was in the crime scene. Orozco said he was not the lead investigator in the case and did not know the reason why her vehicle was not searched.In addition, Kelley, who had blocked Gallardo’s car in the parking space, moved her truck after the shooting. Evenson asked if Orozco and Bell if any measurements were taken from Kelley’s representations of the incident. Both said no measurements were taken based on Kelley’s statement.