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.
The annals of overzealous police behavior are full of shocking tales, but few are as unsettling as the recent allegations that a man was tased 13 times by police officers after a DUI arrest.
According to a recent report in the Santa Barbara Independent, 50-year-old Tony Denunzio was tased repeatedly by arresting officers after being pulled over for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol.
Both Denunzio and witnesses of the incident claim that officer Aaron Tudor punched, kneed and tased Denunzio after the Tudor pulled him over for DUI Charges, even though Denunzio allegedly did not resist the arrest.
A mug shot of Denunzio taken a few hours after the arrest shows a badly bruised man with a contusion on his right eye and cuts on his forehead and cheeks. During the arrest, Denunzio also suffered a broken nose, broken ribs, and an injured wrist.
While both sides have their own stories—police claim Denunzio resisted the arrest, while he claims that police had no reason to beat him—extra intrigue was added to the case when authorities revealed that the entire episode had been caught on a patrol vehicle camera.
Currently, the police video is not yet available, and information about Denunzio’s level of drunkenness has also not been released, so investigators are left with competing narratives about the night.
According to the story told by police, Tudor pulled Denunzio over after the driver had executed a series of quick lane changes without using his turn signal.
Police further alleged that, after he left his truck, Denunzio started walking away from Tudor. When Tudor grabbed the driver’s arm, Denunzio resisted the physical contact. This forced Tudor to trip Denunzio and apparently slap him several times in the head.
These slaps allegedly did not subdue the driver, so Tudor eventually resorted to punching and kicking the arrestee. When these proved inadequate, and Denunzio continued to resist, Tudor began to use his Taser, which was activated 13 times.
Witnesses, however, offered a different story. According to some people on the scene, Denunzio left his car without knowing that he was being pursued by a police officer.
When Tudor yelled at him to stop, witnesses claim that Denunzio obliged and did not actively resist the arrest. In his defense, Denunzio also claimed that that he did not physically challenge Tudor, and instead “laid down like a kitten” when the officer grabbed him.
In response to public outcry over the incident, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara Police Department said that police officials had reviewed the tape of the altercation and concluded that Tudor did not violate police regulations.
While it may take authorities more time to conclude who acted irresponsibly in this incident, it is fair to say that Denunzio could have handled the situation better.
DUI arrests may lead to some fines or possible jail time, but their effects can be compounded by aggressive behavior after the arrest. Other drivers would be well advised to mind their manners in the presence of police.