An Arizona police chief is defending an officer who was recorded driving a cruiser diagonally across a street and slamming into an armed suspect walking along a sidewalk.
Marana Police Chief Terry Rozema released dashcam videos of the violent Feb. 19 crash this week.
Officer Michael Rapiejko crashed his car into suspect Mario Valencia, 36, who police say fired a shot at officers. Valencia is accused of stealing a rifle from a Walmart, leading a home invasion, robbing a convenience store and firing a shot at police with the stolen firearm.
The videos represent a new twist in the recent rush of recorded confrontations between police officers and suspects of color. Police fired no shots, Valencia, who is Latino, was hospitalized in serious condition but released and sent to jail two days later.
Rozema defended the officer’s decision to ram into Valencia. He told Tucson’s KVOA-TV that if Valencia had approached an officer, police would have had “no choice but to begin firing” at the suspect.
“The thought is to take a shot, which would have been completely justified. Then he is looking at it as this guy has a high-powered rifle. If I miss, he is going to turn and start firing on us and we are at a big disadvantage at that point,” the police chief said.
Valencia’s lawyer disagrees.
“Everything in the video seems to point towards an obvious excessive use of force. It is miraculous that my client isn’t dead,” attorney Michelle Cohen-Metzger told CNN.
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SOURCE: USA Today, John Bacon and Melanie Eversley