PARADISE, Calif. (AP) — Recordings show that police in Northern California initially dismissed a man’s claim he had been shot by an officer after a high-speed pursuit and roll-over accident that killed another person.
Paradise Police Officer Patrick Feaster didn’t tell his commanding officer for 11 minutes at the accident scene that he had fired his gun, according to recordings obtained by the Paradise Post (http://bit.ly/1IbsujI).
Trapped in the overturned vehicle, the man told officers twice that he had been shot, the newspaper reported Wednesday.
The shooting, which was captured by a dash-camera video, had prompted protests in Paradise, 90 miles north of Sacramento. The officer has said that he accidentally shot the driver, who was paralyzed by a wound to the neck. Prosecutors concluded that there was no basis for filing criminal charges against the Feaster, who remains on paid administrative leave.
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The incident late in the evening of Nov. 25 happened after Andrew Thomas, 26, a suspected drunk driver, sped away from a bar with no headlights, nearly hitting people in its parking lot before the crash, investigators said.
The video shows Feaster draw his gun on Thomas as he climbs out of the overturned Toyota 4Runner. The video shows the single shot fired and Thomas dropping back into the sports utility vehicle.
Several minutes later, Feaster is heard telling his commander: “I don’t think I shot him … but the gun did go off.”
Thomas remains hospitalized. His estranged wife, Darien Ehorn, 23, was thrown from the vehicle and died.
Prosecutors released video and audio from the body cameras of two other officers who arrived moments after the shooting. Dash-camera video from Feaster’s car had previously been released.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said in a letter to Paradise Police Chief Gabriela Tazzari-Dineen that the evidence shows the shooting was “unintentional and possibly negligent, but not criminally so.”
Ramsey says in a letter to residents that they are “justifiably horrified” at first sight of the video. But examined frame-by-frame, Feaster’s body language shows that he was surprised by the shot, indicating he fired unintentionally.
It was appropriate for Feaster to draw his weapon in a felony traffic stop, Ramsey said, noting the man’s reckless driving and his attempt to quickly climb from the overturned vehicle after the crash.
Once an internal affairs investigation is completed, Tazzari-Dineen will decide whether to take administrative action against Feaster, including possible termination, department spokesman Lt. Steve Rowe told The Associated Press.
Rowe said he believes that Feaster did not intend to fire his weapon.
“Unfortunately, he did,” Rowe said. “We’d all like to take it back. It is what it is. We have to live with it.”
Neither Feaster nor his attorney, Brett Sherman, could be immediately reached for comment.