Dramatic dashcam footage of an Arizona police officer intentionally ramming his car into an armed robbery suspect walking on the pavement at high speed has emerged online.
The incident took place on February 19 in Tucson, but the two dashcam videos from the police cruisers were released this week.
Both show Officer Michael Rapiejko accelerating and striking 36-year-old Mario Valencia before smashing into a brick wall. Valencia was injured during the incident and spent two days in a hospital before landing in jail. He now faces several felony charges.
According to authorities, Valencia robbed a convenience store before breaking into a church where he started a fire and then forced his way into an occupied home stealing a car which he used to drive to a Walmart store where he reportedly stole a rifle and ammunition. He then abandoned the car and started walking, allegedly pointing the rifle to his head threatening suicide and firing shots in the air.
Police in Marana justified the officer’s actions:
“If we’re going to choose between maybe we’ll let him go a little bit farther and see what happens, or we’re going to take him out now and eliminate any opportunity he has to hurt somebody, you’re going to err on the side of, in favor of the innocent people,” Police Chief Terry Rozema told CNN. “Without a doubt.”
“This officer made a split-second decision, and in retrospect, when all the dust clears, I think we look at this and say, yeah, there’s things we can learn from this,” he said, “but the entire community is safe, all the officers are safe, and even the suspect in this case is safe.”
The local district attorney sided with the Police Chief and declined to charge Rapiejko.
“Given all of the circumstances of this case, there is insufficient evidence to prove that Officer Repiejko had the requisite criminal intent for aggravated assault,” reads the letter from Pima County attorney Barbara LaWall to the police chief, according to ABC News.
“As Officer Rapiejko arrived in the area, he could see Mr. Valencia was headed toward some businesses. There were also other officers in the area. Officer Rapiejko was approximately fifty yards away. Officer Rapiejko determined that Mr Valencia would be able to fire the gun quickly at businesses and therefore decided he needed to stop Mr. Valencia from proceeding any further.”
The suspect’s lawyer, however, 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 the media.
“I think that there’s all sorts of other things that the police have been trained on and could have done. The officer that used this tactic certainly went outside protocol in using that and I don’t think that was the only means with which to have taken my client into custody,” Metzger said.
What’s your take on the issue?