Over at Cato's Police Misconduct web site, we have identified the worst case for the month of December. It involved the shooting of a man in Paradise, California.
According to news reports, here's what happened: Andrew Thomas was seen leaving the parking lot of a bar and his vehicle didn't have its lights on -- even though it was late at night. Officer Patrick Feaster suspected the driver (Thomas) might be intoxicated and so pursued Thomas to pull him over and investigate further.
No problem so far. We want police to be alert for impaired drivers who may endanger other people.
Next, Thomas did not pull over after Feaster was behind him with his police lights flashing.
Moments later, Thomas's SUV crashed and his wife was ejected from the vehicle. She died.
Next, things get even worse. Officer Feaster is seen on dash-cam video walking toward the crashed SUV. The video shows Thomas trying to climb out of the overturned SUV. Feaster draws his sidearm and shoots Thomas in the neck and he falls back into his SUV.
After the shooting, Officer Feaster gets on his radio to report that the driver is refusing his commands to get out of the vehicle. He does not mention that he shot the driver. Feaster also reports that a injured woman is unresponsive, but the video shows that he is not checking on her condition or rendering aid.
Other police and responders get to the scene, but ten minutes go by before Feaster says he fired his weapon. It is very unclear what could be the justification for shooting a man after a vehicle crash in these circumstances. Officer Feaster says he was not threatened, but that his gun went off accidentally.
On a police body camera, Feaster is heard telling the watch commander that his gun went off, but he didn't think the driver was hit because he wasn't aiming his weapon in the driver's direction. Thomas initially survived the shot to his neck, but was paralyzed. He died weeks later.
Despite community outrage, the local prosecutor, Mike Ramsey, declined to file any criminal charges against Officer Feaster because he said he lacked sufficient evidence to prove a crime in court. That's very odd. Prosecutors would typically be relieved to know that the incident was captured on videotape.
View the video for yourself here: