You know I’m always on the lookout for a good “did this cop use his taser reasonably?” story for HA commenters to fight over. No tasers here, but close enough.
The facts, according to police: Mario Valencia held up a 7-Eleven, set fire to a church, broke into a home, stole a car, and then stole a rifle and ammo from Wal-Mart by strong-arming an employee there. Supposedly, after the cops tracked him down, he pointed the rifle at an officer. You can hear one cop on his police radio in the first clip below noting that Valencia had already fired a shot into the air. Per the chief of police, he was walking towards an office complex, fully armed. And then…
“Stand off, the gun is loaded,” an officer warns.
An officer then drives off the road and into Valencia, in a shocking collision captured on two cruisers’ cameras…
According to Marana Police Chief Terry Rozema, while Valencia didn’t shoot anyone, he did aim the rifle at an officer. Rozema said an officer told him Valencia was walking toward a business, and while the officer was too far away to shoot, he decided to get on top of him as fast as possible to separate Valencia from the weapon.
Michael Rapiejko, the officer involved, was cleared by county attorneys and returned to work after a few days, Rozema said.
“Everything in the video seems to point towards an obvious excessive use of force. It is miraculous that my client isn’t dead,” said Valencia’s lawyer afterward. And yes, you read that correctly: He isn’t dead, despite the ferocious wallop you’re about to see him take. He survived somehow, spent two days in the hospital, and was released to police custody. That fact alone probably explains why the cop behind the wheel is already back at work. Confronted with a suspect who was apparently out of his mind (he was dressed only in his undies at the 7-Eleven) and had already fired a deadly weapon, odds were awfully good that rolling up on Valencia and telling him to surrender would have ended up with shots fired and the perp dead on the sidewalk. Running him over turned out to be the less lethal option. But then, there’s the problem: Because they didn’t give him the chance to surrender, all we have are the odds. Could they have gotten close enough safely to take him down by tasing him? Would he have surrendered if offered the opportunity? A precedent in which cops can neutralize dangerous perps by giving them 60 mph of rough justice on the sidewalk seems … sub-optimal.
Prediction: Comments will split roughly 90/10 in favor of the officer. Prove me right! (Or wrong.) Oh, and watch the first clip to the end. It’s actually two clips stitched together, the first of the collision as seen from another squad car — and the second as seen from the perspective of the cop who actually hit Valencia.