Questions Increase as Officer Intentionally Hits Suspect with Car

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The Arizona Police Department have claimed that an officer who intentionally hit a suspect with a car actually saved his life.  However, the man’s lawyer strongly disagrees and the video from the dashboard camera has initiated strong debate around the country about what type of force police should use on a man with a gun.

Attorney for the man, Michelle Cogen-Metzger, said that everything in the video pointed towards an obvious excessive use of force and that it was a ‘miracle’ that her client wasn’t dead.

Shots fired

The incident was recorded on the dashcam in February 19th as two police cars from the Marana police department were following a 38-year-old man named Mario Valencia.  In one video, an officer following Valencia in his car at slow speeds reports over the radio that the suspect has fired a single shot into the air with a rifle he was said to have stolen from Walmart that morning.

Another video shows a patrol car overtaking the first, hitting the man from behind and then colliding with a short cinder block wall beside a driveway.  The video from this car, driven by Officer Michael Rapiejko, shows the officer running the man over and him colliding with the windscreen, smashing it.

The town of Marana is around half an hour from Tucson and the police department have justified the officer’s actions.  Police chief Terry Rozema said that if they were offered a choice between letting a suspect go further and see what happens or stopping him now before he had the opportunity to hurt someone, they would always err on the side of caution, favouring innocent people.

He added in an interview with CNN that the situation warranted deadly force because the suspect was approaching a built-up area where hundreds of people worked.

Decision

He said that the officer made a split second decision and that he believes that ‘when the dust settles, we can learn from this’ but that the community is safe, the officers are safe and even the suspect himself is safe.

No efforts were made to de-escalate the situation by the officers even though they could see that the man was ‘clearly suicidal, clearly in crisis’ said Valencia’s attorney.  She said it was ludicrous to think of saving a suicidal man’s life by nearly killing him.

Valencia is said to be in serious condition when taken to hospital but was released to police custody two days later.

Opinions

Opinions vary about the idea of using a vehicle as a means to stop a suspect as done in this case.  One former New York Police Department detective said that it was the right move.  In his opinion, it was better than getting into a gun battle with the suspect where people could have died.

One former Secret Service agent however was a little less sure.  He said that while the suspect needed to be stopped, he questioned the tactic of using the car to do this and that setting up a perimeter and trying to talk to the man first may have been more efficient.


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