SAN MATEO (BCN) — Three California Highway Patrol officers who fatally shot a drunk, armed carjacking suspect after a car crash on U.S. Highway 101 in San Mateo earlier this year have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney.
“It is my conclusion that the use of lethal force under the circumstances encountered … was justifiable,” District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said in a statement issued Wednesday.
On April 28, a woman called 911 around 5:25 p.m. after she was rear-ended on northbound Highway 101 near state Highway 92 by Luis Fernando Pacheco-Orozco, who was at the wheel of a Toyota Tacoma.
She requested that officers respond to the scene and take a report, according to Steve Wagstaffe.
Before they arrived, however, the victim called back and reported that the suspect had pulled a gun, taken her truck and left the scene.
Then, while she was on the phone with dispatch, he drove the stolen truck in reverse on the shoulder of the roadway – back to the scene of the crime.
Officer Stephanie Combs spoke with the victim on the shoulder of the roadway when she arrived on scene, then drove up to Pacheco-Orozco who was near his vehicle.
Combs took cover behind the drivers-side door of her patrol vehicle, ordered him to drop his handgun using the vehicle’s public address system.
Officers Eric Lovejoy and Andrew Schillaci also arrived on the scene, and all three of them had weapons trained on Pacheco-Orozco. Combs was armed with a .40-caliber pistol while Lovejoy and Schillaci were both carrying service rifles.
After ignoring orders to drop his handgun, a loaded .357-caliber revolver, Pacheco-Orozco raised his weapon and pointed it directly at the officers – a move that was filmed by a camera mounted in Combs’ patrol
vehicle – prompting all three officers to open fire.
Pacheco-Orozco was struck four times, once in the shoulder, once in the thigh and twice in the chest.
The rounds to his chest were fatal, and a criminologist at the San Mateo County Crime Lab determined that they were fired by Schillaci.
Pacheco-Orozco was found to have a blood-alcohol content of 0.20-percent at the time of his death, with methampetamine and amphetamines in his system as well.
Wagstaffe said that officers considered deploying a Taser but were not close enough to use it effectively. They also requested that a less-lethal shotgun be brought to the scene, but the fatal shooting occurred before it arrived.
The victim described Pacheco-Orozco as “flustered” and “very desperate,” and investigators found that his background included multiple past convictions for driving under the influence.
He was also on felony probation, so the legal repercussions of crashing while drunk would have been severe.
That may have been a factor in his motivation to take the victim’s vehicle and flee the scene, according to prosecutors.
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