ANAHEIM, Calif. – One Anaheim 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.
(Watch video below.)
The incident began after the family of Eliuth Penaloza Nava, 50, called police on July 21, 2018. The reporting party said he was behaving strangely and arguing with family members, reported The Orange County Register.
Moreover, family members 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.
Responding officers arrived on scene at about 9:45 a.m. that Saturday morning. Upon their arrival, they found Nava sitting in his truck, the Orange County Register reported. However, things quickly escalated.
A report by the district attorney’s office said that Nava immediately fled when the officers arrived.
Anaheim Police Officers Sean Staymates and Kevin Pedersen followed the white pickup truck, according to The Register.
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.
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. As a result, his partner gave him another magazine of ammo.
During the pursuit one of the officers is heard saying, “417 out the window.” This refers to a firearm.
Officer Pedersen fired the majority of the rounds at Nava. However, Officer Staymates fired a rifle at the white truck through the passenger window, 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 rounds.
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.
Watch the vehicle pursuit and OIS in the video below.
WARNING – GRAPHIC CONTENT:
Furthermore, 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.
The report says Nava was shot at least nine times in the head, neck and upper body. An autopsy showed Nava was under the influence of amphetamines and methamphetamines.
Following the investigation, Anaheim Police Chief Jorge Cisneros fired Officer Pedersen, who was a probationary officer with less than a year working for the police agency, according to The Register. As such, he does not possess the same rights as an officer who is off probation.
Chief Cisneros said 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 rounds while Officer Staymates had fired 12, KNBC reported.
Out of 200,000 police encounters last year, “99.9% resulted in a peaceful resolution without the use of force,” Chief Cisneros said. “While this was not our finest hour, it would be wrong to judge our professional employees by a single encounter.”