A Southern California deputy fired multiple times from a helicopter, shooting and killing a fleeing suspect who was driving on the wrong side of the freeway during a high-speed chase Friday afternoon.
The San Bernardino County sheriff sniper fired at least nine times, striking the home invasion suspect at least once, who then exited the still-rolling vehicle and stumbled a few feet before dropping dead.
The bullet-riddled Chevy Tahoe then struck a Dodge Durango with two adults and a 13-year-old boy, leaving all three hospitalized. A male adult and the boy were treated and released. A female adult remains hospitalized.
The aftermath of the movie-like high speed chase has raised important questions about policy in such incidents.
But sheriff officials said it legal although rare for it to happen.
They also said they were forced to fire from the helicopter because the suspect was a threat to public safety, having reached speeds more 100 mph as he drove the wrong way on the freeway.
The suspect also ran several red lights on surface streets, narrowly missing several pedestrians before entering the freeway.
San Bernardino Sheriff spokeswoman Jodi Miller stated the following in an email to PINAC.
“All of our flight officers qualify with the same weapons that they carry in the aircraft through and within department qualifications.”
“Additionally, they train from the air every 90 days at a minimum. This training is specific to deploying weaponry from the aircraft. The unit has been actively training from the air since the mid 80s. This is the seventh deputy involved shooting (from the air) since that time. The last was in Apple Valley in 2001.”
Another sheriff spokeswoman, Olivia Bozek, stated the following in a video interview with journalists at the scene:
“The Sheriff’s Specialized Enforcement Division was attempting to take into custody a home invasion robbery suspect. They attempted to to do a traffic stop around 12:49 today. The suspect did not stop, and a pursuit was initiated. The pursuit went through Fontana, San Bernardino, and onto the 215 Freeway. During the pursuit an officer involved shooting was initiated.
While wrong way on the 215 Freeway, the suspect exited the vehicle, the vehicle continued to move, and crash into another involved vehicle. The occupants from that vehicle, there were three, were taken to local area hospitals. The suspect is deceased and the coroner will release the cause of death pending the autopsy. Right now our Sheriff’s Specialized Investigation Division is conducting the investigation.”
Up to nine bullet holes – two in the windshield, six in the hood, and possibly one in the front right side quarter panel, near the motor – can be counted in a photo taken at the scene by Doug Saunders of the San Bernardino Sun.
In 2013, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department made international news when a deputy landed the same type of helicopter in the desert to question a woman who was collecting rocks, demanding her identification and searching through her purse.
That video is the second one below, beneath the video of the local news report on the recent shooting incident.