Generally speaking, it's better if cops refrain from firing off 76 shots from a moving car in a heavily populated residential neighborhood. But that's what two of them did last July, according to an investigation by the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
A newly released letter from the D.A. recaps the events that transpired when officers Sean Staymates and Kevin Pedersen pursued 50-year-old Eliuth Penaloza Nava.
The story begins when one of Nava's brothers called emergency services to say that Nava was high on drugs, possibly hallucinating, and driving around in a white truck with a gun and knife. After Staymates and Pedersen located the truck and began to approach it, Nava started to drive away. Both officers then exited their vehicle with their weapons drawn and pointed them at Nava, shouting: "Stop the truck!" Nava fled while the officers reentered their vehicle and pursued.
Pedersen saw Nava reach toward the floorboard and told Staymates that he believed Nava had a gun. Nava pointed the gun toward the officers as he drove, and the cops started firing. Pedersen later said that he saw Nava lower his gun each time they fired—and that he continued firing to keep Nava from shooting random residents. At one point, Staymates began shooting with his patrol rifle.
The chase ended when Nava pulled his truck up to the front of his home. The officers continued shooting at either the truck or Nava after he opened the door. They later said that they could see him moving inside but could not see both of his hands to be sure that he was unarmed. Nava was seriously wounded, and the two officers pulled him out of the vehicle.
Paramedics arrived and attempted to stabilize him. Nava was declared dead after being transported to a local hospital. His gun turned out to be a CO2-powered air pistol; it lacked the orange tip that would indicate that it's a fake.
Footage of the officers shooting through their own dashboard was captured by their body cameras.
The officers will not face criminal charges. But the D.A. writes that the decision to fire 76 shots from a moving car in a residential neighborhood "was alarming and irresponsible." The D.A. also recommends that the police department "fairly take any and all appropriate administrative actions and remedies."
The Anaheim Police Department has confirmed that Pedersen has been fired. Staymates is on paid administrative leave.