A routine DUI traffic stop in northern California ended in a bloody melee, as a man trying to escape a DUI arrest was gunned down by police after he reached for his own weapon, according to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Sources indicate that the 42-year-old driver, whose identity has not yet been released, was stopped last week on suspicion of drunk driving at around 10:00 p.m. in Santa Clara, California.
When the responding officer saw that the man was being uncooperative, he called for backup from a nearby fellow officer. According to a police report, before additional officers arrived, the suspect was seen reaching for a revolver in his car.
In a statement released by Santa Clara police captain Phil Cooke, the officer on the scene “fired in self-defense based on the suspect’s actions.” The shots fired by the officer ultimately proved fatal for the suspected drunk driver.
Again, according to Cooke, “unfortunately, the suspect was pronounced dead at the scene, but we’re grateful there were no other injuries.”
Police shootings of suspects, whatever the situation or crime, always foster a great deal of public scrutiny, and this incident will likely follow suit. Santa Clara police officials and other authorities have already launched a full-scale investigation of the matter.
While the investigation is proceeding, the officer who fired the fatal shots will be placed on administrative duties and temporarily taken off the streets. Sources indicate that the officer has been a member of the Santa Clara police force for two years.
This incident, while harrowing, raises a few interesting issues about DUI arrests. First, since police officers never know the mindset of the person they are pulling over, they often approach even routine traffic stops with a heightened level of awareness.
As a result, drivers should refrain from making sudden movements, or taking any steps that might make it appear like they are reaching for a weapon.
In addition, drivers are cautioned to pull over in a relatively non-busy and well-lit location, both for the protection of themselves and the officers.
Moreover, when an officer approaches your vehicle after you have been pulled over, keeping your hands on your steering wheel shows the officer that you are not dangerous and allows them to approach your car with a greater degree of comfort.
Finally, and this seems like an obvious statement but it must be emphasized, drivers who are pulled over, especially on suspicion of drunk driving, should remain polite and relatively cordial during their discussion with police.
Any aggressive words, even if they are not supported by violent actions, could be interpreted by police as a sign of hostility, which could lead to further criminal charges, or, in the worst case, unwanted violent action.