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Officer Shoots Driver Who Tries to Ram Him

May 02, 1997|SOLOMON MOORE and BETH SHUSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A California Highway Patrol officer shot and critically wounded a motorist Thursday near Universal City after the man tried to ram the officer with his car, officials and a witness said.

The driver was shot in the chest and the arm while seated behind the wheel of his car on the Vineland Avenue offramp of the Hollywood Freeway. He later was listed in critical condition at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills with a punctured lung, a broken rib and a bullet wound to his right bicep, CHP officials said.

Why the driver tried to run the officer down was not immediately clear, investigators said. The names of the driver and the CHP officer were not released.

The officer, who has been based for the past eight years at the CHP's West Valley station in Woodland Hills, tried to stop the driver for speeding on the southbound Hollywood Freeway shortly before noon, CHP officials said. Despite the patrol car's flashing lights, the man did not stop, investigators said.

They said the officer called for assistance when the driver got off the freeway at Vineland. When the motorist stopped at the bottom of the offramp, the officer left his car and walked toward the man, who then tried to run over the officer, officials said.

"He drove forward toward the officer, actually striking him with the vehicle," CHP Officer Dwight MacDonald said.

"In fear for his life, the officer fired his weapon," CHP Officer David Derczo said.

Some witnesses said they heard seven or eight shots. Seven cartridge casings were found on the street.

"The guy almost drove over him," said Mark Ettlinger, who witnessed the shooting. "He tried to run him over with his car."

After he was shot, the man drove his black Pontiac Fiero into a parking lot at Lankershim Boulevard and Moorpark Street nearby. He stopped the car, got out and started walking away. Arriving police quickly arrested and handcuffed him, and paramedics took him to the hospital.

Routine traffic stops are among the most dangerous situations for CHP officers because they have no way of knowing whether drivers will be cooperative or combative, officers said..

"There's the unknown element," MacDonald said. "You can't treat every car you stop like it's Charlie Manson who just committed murder. There are decent people out there who make mistakes."

In Thursday's case, CHP officials said the officer properly called on his car radio for assistance. The officer has not been involved in a shooting before, officials said. He had been driving his regular patrol route.

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