In courthouse parlance, Ari Gold is what’s known as a frequent flier. Starting at the age of 19 and running through this year – his 24th – he’d amassed a number of cases, some of them benign and others far more serious.
There was a felony charge in 2017, involving the theft of a computer, wallet, money, cell phone and backpack from the victim. Also in 2017, an ex-girlfriend sought and obtained a restraining order against him, alleging verbal and emotional abuse. And he’s been charged with five separate misdemeanors, including threatening to harm or kill two acquaintances in 2019.
One of those misdemeanors tells a more complete story than a list of charges and convictions. It doesn’t explain how Gold came to be in a hospital bed, paralyzed from the chest down with a bullet still lodged in his spine after being shot by police last month, but it may explain the thought process he had in the hours before he was shot.
On Sept. 11, 2018, Gold was charged with misdemeanor drug possession. The day after Gold was charged, he failed to appear for his arraignment and Monterey County Superior Court Judge Timothy Roberts issued a bench warrant for his arrest. On Oct. 4, Judge Robert Burlison found that Gold, who came to court, would benefit from pre-trial diversion, in which Gold agreed to go to in-patient drug treatment. Upon successful completion of treatment – meaning he had stayed sober, participated in therapy and abided by all of the rules – a counselor would send a report to the judge and the misdemeanor possession charge would be dismissed.
Gold entered into treatment and it appeared he was doing well. In letters to the court on Dec. 17, a counselor wrote that Gold was participating in therapy and maintaining his sobriety, something proven with random drug tests.
But the letter also revealed that Gold was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder and was considered “dual diagnosis,” meaning he was in a cycle of mental illness and drug use. Hallmarks of bipolar 1 include manic episodes, feelings of euphoria, poor sleep and risky behavior all part of the mix.
“If they’re manic and unmedicated, they’re likely to engage in risk-taking behavior. They’re impulsive. They might be up for days with little-to-no sleep,” says Devon Corpus, a social worker and senior program officer with Community Human Services. “But they start feeling delusional. They might end up doing things they might not normally do.”
On March 29, Gold failed to appear in court, and a warrant was issued, then rescinded when he came to court on April 12. And again, on June 28, he failed to appear in court, and a warrant was issued, but then ordered held. On July 12, he failed to appear again, and a warrant was issued. Then on July 15, he pleaded no contest in a different case to making criminal threats against two men.
For reasons that are unclear, he wasn’t taken into custody.
That brings us to July 23.
It’s impossible to know if Gold was manic on that night, when at least one resident in the Toro Park neighborhood called 911 to report a truck had driven down the street erratically and struck a car before parking in the driveway of a home. CHP officers Christopher Weaver and Kristi Cho responded at 7:18pm.
Shortly after they arrived, so did the homeowner, who didn’t recognize the vehicle in her driveway. When the officers entered the home’s master bedroom, they say they found Gold hiding in the shower and that he pointed a weapon at Cho, according to a press release from the District Attorney’s Office.
Both officers opened fire. Two bullets struck Gold, one in the hip and one in his spine. Doctors aren’t sure if they can remove the bullet from his spine, or what his chances are at regaining the use of his arms and legs.
The homeowner is Gold’s grandmother. She is devastated, as is Gold’s mother, according to his attorney, Steve Rease, who shows me pictures of some of the bullet holes in the home, including a tight cluster of seven where the officers fired through a wall and into the shower.
Rease has been unable to interview his client, who remains hospitalized. When he tried to talk to him on Aug. 1, Gold’s voice was barely a whisper.
“We haven’t seen any proof he had a weapon and I don’t accept their say as proof he had one,” Rease says. “It’s their claim and we dispute it.” When Gold is well enough to appear in court, he will be charged with felony assault on a peace officer.