Army vet given light sentence in pretend shooting case

Courtesy PhotoSecond chance: Army vet Ashley Viola has reportedly gotten his life back on track since the 2011 San Mateo incident.

The “good Samaritan” who reportedly pulled the trigger of an unloaded gun several times while pointing it at a man who rudely bumped into a woman on a downtown San Mateo sidewalk last year has been sentenced to six days in jail for a crime that caused quite a scare.

Army veteran Ashley Viola, 24, of San Pablo, pleaded no contest Monday to misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the June 22, 2011, incident.

Viola, who has been out of custody after posting the $50,000 bail, was credited for time already served and will not go back to jail. He also was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

The judge delivered a light sentence partly because Viola was  suffering from post-war trauma from being in Iraq at the time, and because since the incident he has apparently turned his life around by getting a job and having a child with his wife, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Tuesday.

“The judge didn’t want him to lose his job,” he said.

Also, Wagstaffe said, during the preliminary hearing a judge reduced the charges against Viola to a misdemeanor, believing Viola had no intention of firing the weapon at the man.

Prosecutors then pursued the misdemeanor charge so that Viola would be prohibited from possessing a firearm for 10 years, Wagstaffe said.

The incident last year unfolded about 3 p.m., Viola told police, when he was driving near Third Avenue and San Mateo Drive and witnessed a man inexplicably assault a 57-year-old woman. The woman was walking when she was bumped from behind and nearly knocked to the ground, police said. The man who bumped her reportedly continued to walk.

A concerned Viola hit the brakes and asked the woman if she was OK, police said. Though she told him she was fine, the veteran parked his car, grabbed his father-in-law’s .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun and went after the man. While he had the gun in one hand, the clip with bullets was in his other hand, Wagstaffe said.

Viola “pointed it at the man and pulled the trigger several times,” the district attorney said.

Nearby witnesses immediately called police. At first, police said, Viola rejected orders to drop his weapon, but eventually complied.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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