TUCSON, Arizona — Dramatic dash-cam video that shows a police officer using his cruiser to ram a rifle-toting robbery suspect who had been walking down a street was getting attention across the U.S. on Wednesday.
Adding to a growing stream of images that is raising hard questions about police use of force, the video released Tuesday shows the suspect being hit from behind and cart-wheeling through the air as the cruiser slams into a wall.
The intentional, high-speed crash clearly shocked a fellow officer, who had just warned other police to stay back because the rifle was “definitely loaded.”
Prosecutors cleared Officer Michael Rapiejko of any wrongdoing in the ramming of the suspect, who survived the Feb. 19 crash. Mario Valencia, 36, apparently escaped major injuries and now faces several felony charges, including assault on an officer.
His attorney, Michelle Cohen-Metzger, has not responded to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
Police Sgt. Chris Warren said Valencia robbed a convenience store in Tucson, broke into a church, invaded a home, stole a car and then drove to the northern suburb of Marana, where he stole a rifle from a Wal-Mart.
Video from two police cruisers shows Valencia walking with a rifle down a busy business corridor. At one point, Valencia points the rifle at himself and threatens to kill himself. At another, Valencia shoots the rifle into the air.
One of the dash cam videos was from a cruiser driving slowly behind Valencia from about a half-block away. That officer can be heard telling others to “stand off” because the suspect is armed.
Moments later, another patrol car suddenly comes into view, driving at high speed into Valencia, sending him flying before smashing into a retaining wall.
The camera in Rapiejko’s cruiser provides a more first-person view, which ends with a shattered windshield.
“Oh, Jesus Christ, man down!” the first officer shouts as police swarm the scene, guns drawn.
Warren said Rapiejko was put on a standard administrative leave, but is back on regular duty after the Pima County Attorney’s Office cleared him of any wrongdoing.
Story by the Associated Press.
CCTV’s Jim Spellman filed this report from Washington