The man who allegedly fired an unloaded gun at a citizen in downtown San Mateo two weeks ago will return to court tomorrow for his preliminary hearing.
Ashley Andaluz Viola, 23, says he was acting as a Good Samaritan at the time but is now charged with one felony count of assault with a deadly weapon, and three misdemeanor charges of assault with a firearm, drawing a firearm in a threatening manner and carrying a loaded firearm.
He is scheduled to make his next court appearance on July 6 in San Mateo County Superior Court. During his initial court appearance on June 24, Viola pleaded not guilty to the charges.
According to an initial report filed by the San Mateo Police Department, a 57-year-old woman from San Mateo was walking on the sidewalk on June 22 in the 100 block of East Third Avenue.
For unknown reasons, a passerby made contact with the woman and almost knocked her down, police said, then continued walking.
Viola saw the incident as he was driving nearby. He allegedly stopped his car and asked the woman if she was okay and she told him she was fine.
Police say Viola then parked his vehicle and walked toward the man who ran into the woman.
He drew his .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun, pointed it at the man, and pulled the trigger several times. The gun did not fire as there were no rounds in the chamber. Patrons in the downtown area immediately called police.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe says the idea of Viola acting as a Good Samaritan may not be quite accurate. "The reality is, he was not interrupting a vicious beating. It was an argument with a push," Wagstaffe said.
Downtown merchants who witnessed the altercation told Patch they were shaken at the time.
“Saw it toward the end once the police pulled up in front of my store,” wrote Jamie Sears Turri, owner of , on San Mateo Patch’s Facebook page. “I noticed the street was on lockdown and heard there was a gun. Myself and my customer went inside and locked the door to be safe until we knew it was OK.”
Kiera McKernan, a manager at at that intersection, said a customer came in screaming for her to call 911. She looked across the street and saw the confrontation happening in front of the .
“An older gentleman was standing out there and a younger kid pulled a gun on him and was pointing it at him,” she said.
The older man was trying to hide behind a newspaper rack, and the gunman, who she said looked no older than 25, was circling the rack trying to get to him, holding a silver gun, McKernan said.
“He was waving it and making it really known that he had a gun,” she said.
She added that at one point the younger man cornered the other man and looked like he was going to shoot him.
“He was getting ready to do whatever,” she said.
When they arrived, officers saw Viola pointing his gun. They drew their own weapons and ordered Viola to drop his firearm. Viola turned toward the officers with his gun still in hand, in a ready to fire position.
Repeatedly ordered to drop his gun, Viola finally complied, dropped the weapon, and was taken into custody.
Across the street from the U.S. Bank, an employee at said it looked like the younger man tried to shoot the older man.
“From our side we heard him click the gun three times but we didn’t see any bullets coming out,” she said.
She said that at that point she assumed it was a toy gun, but then saw the gunman fishing around in his pocket and then making motions as if he were trying to reload the gun.
Wagstaffe was asked if psychiatric issues may be involved. "It sure seems like there might be. When he was in court, he indicated that (Ashley Viola) was not his name; the whole conduct of self tends to be unusual."
Wagstaffe's office is following up on information that Viola may be a military veteran. "If there is a involvement of a veteran status, if ultimate background determination is that he is a war vet, those are all very relevant factors to be learned by us," says Wagstaffe. "We only know part of the story at this point, and we intend to do find out."
Viola's last known address was in San Pablo. According to Wagstaffe, he has no background of law-related offenses in San Mateo County.
-Patch Local Editor Don Frances and Bay City News contributed to this article.