Anaheim, CA – One police officer was fired and another is facing administrative discipline after they fired most of 76 rounds through their windshield at a pickup truck they were chasing (video below).
The incident began after the family of 50-year-old Eliuth Penaloza Nava called police on July 21, 2018 and said he was behaving strangely and arguing with family members, the Orange County Register reported.
Family members also told dispatchers that Nava had a knife and a gun in his truck parked at their home in the 500 block of South West Street.
When officers arrived on the scene at about 9:45 a.m. that Saturday morning, they found Nava sitting in his truck, the Orange County Register reported.
A report by the district attorney’s office said that Nava took off when the officers arrived, before they could block him in with their patrol vehicle.
Anaheim Police Officers Sean Staymates and Kevin Pedersen followed the white pickup truck, the Orange County Register reported.
Officer Pedersen told investigators that he saw Nava reach down and come back up with “what appeared to be a black semi-automatic handgun, resembling a Glock,” according to a letter released Wednesday from Orange County District Attorney’s Office investigators.
The letter said Nava pointed his gun at the officers and “Officers Pedersen and Staymates both feared Nava was going to shoot and kill them.”
“Officer Pedersen wanted to stop Nava from hurting anyone and felt lethal force was necessary,” the investigators said.
The chase continued through the alleys and streets of a residential neighborhood with Officer Pedersen firing numerous rounds through the windshield of the police vehicle as he drove, occasionally reloading as necessary.
The video showed that at one point, he told Officer Staymates that he was running low on ammunition and his partner gave him another magazine.
Officer Pedersen fired the majority of the rounds at Nava, although Officer Staymates fired a rifle at the white truck through windshield and through the passenger window of the police car, the video showed.
"Officer Pedersen continued to fire in fear that Nava may start to randomly shoot civilians in the area," Deputy District Attorney Scott Woolridge wrote. "Officer Pedersen believed he was always aware of his surroundings, and fired only after considering the safety of the nearby citizens."
The chase ended in front of the same house where it began, after Nava had been struck multiple times by the officer’s bullets.
The video showed both officers fired multiple additional shots at Nava as they approached his stopped vehicle.
Officer Pedersen pulled Nava from the driver’s seat and he landed on the pavement next to the sidewalk and did not appear to move in the video.
Nava was transported to University of California Irvine Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, KNBC reported.
Police recovered an air pistol at the scene that was “black in color and extremely similar in appearance to an authentic 9mm Luger pistol,” the Orange County Register reported.
Investigators also discovered a knife in Nava’s hand where he lay on the ground.
An autopsy found that Nava had been struck by at least nine bullets, and that he had amphetamines and methamphetamine in his system when the incident occurred, the Orange County Register reported.
The district attorney’s office determined that Officers Pedersen and Staymates “reasonably feared for their lives” based on witness statements and bodycam video; however, they found the officers’ actions “alarming and irresponsible.”
Prosecutors determined they didn’t have enough to file charges against the officers and instead, put the onus on the police department to discipline the officers administratively, the Orange County Register reported.
“The District Attorney’s conclusion that all of the available evidence is insufficient to warrant the filing of criminal charges against the two officers should not in any way diminish the fact that the District Attorney is alarmed by this conduct, and, along with the public, is relying on [Anaheim] PD to fairly take any and all appropriate administrative actions and remedies,” Woolridge wrote.
Following the investigation, Anaheim Police Chief Jorge Cisneros fired Officer Pedersen, who was a probationary officer with less than a year on the police force, the Orange County Register reported.
Chief Cisneros said former Officer Pedersen's "overall performance fell far short of what the department and community expects,'' according to KNBC.
Officer Staymates, a 10-year veteran of the Anaheim Police Department, was placed on paid administrative leave while the incident was investigated as is protocol for all officer-involved shootings.
“We highly discourage shooting through a window,” Chief Cisneros told the Orange County Register. “But, our policy does not state that you cannot. There could be incidents or actions at times where that would be permissible.”
Officer Staymates has been served with “an intent to discipline notice” by his department, KNBC reported.
The chief refused to comment on his veteran officer and said instead that he “has a right to due process.”
The final report concluded that Officer Pedersen had fired 64 shots and Officer Staymates had fired only 12, KNBC reported.
Woolridge also wrote that Nava had an extensive criminal history dating back to 1997 that included domestic violence, assault with a deadly weapon, resisting arrest, smuggling drugs into jail, drug possession, eluding police, and driving under the influence of drugs.
Watch the officers chase the suspect while firing through the windshield in the video below – WARNING - GRAPHIC CONTENT: