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Fontana Police Fatally Shoot Man

The Perris resident, 34, wanted for theft, is shot to death in his car. It is the city's second officer-related death this year.

March 25, 2004|Lance Pugmire | Time Staff Writer

A parolee wanted on suspicion of theft was shot to death by a Fontana police officer after he crashed his car into a patrol cruiser and ignored orders to stop, authorities said Wednesday.

The incident, the second fatal shooting by a Fontana officer this year, occurred about 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, after a motorcycle officer found Walter Lee Trevino, 34, driving a stolen Jeep Cherokee in a Kmart parking lot on Valley Boulevard in Fontana. Officers suspected he was responsible for a theft from an auto-parts store and the Kmart nearby only minutes before.

Once spotted, Trevino sped away and ended up in another parking lot less than a mile away. Confronted by the motorcycle officer and a two-man cruiser that had joined the chase, the driver reversed the vehicle into the police car, slamming it with such force that its passenger-side air bag deployed.

The officer sitting on the passenger side was later treated for a minor neck injury.

Trevino then pulled his Jeep forward and struck a parked car, police said. The officer driving the patrol car left his cruiser and approached the Jeep on foot from the rear, said Sgt. Mark Weissman, a Fontana police spokesman. Trevino placed the Jeep in reverse and rolled back slowly as he revved his engine, Weissman said.

The motorcycle officer, standing out of the vehicle's path, feared that the Jeep was about to lurch backward toward the other officer, said Weissman.

The motorcycle officer opened fire with his service pistol, firing fewer than 10 shots, Weissman said. Trevino, a Perris resident who was on parole for burglary, died at the scene.

Although the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department will conduct an investigation into Trevino's death and Fontana police will perform an internal probe, Weissman said the shooting met the department's "deadly force" policy standards.

The practice of shooting suspects in moving vehicles has drawn criticism from some who say wounding or killing the driver of a moving vehicle can put officers and bystanders at risk by increasing the chances of a collision. Some police agencies, including the California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles Police Department, have taken steps to prohibit such shootings.

A draft of a revised CHP policy calls for officers to "seek a place of safety" instead of putting themselves in the path of a vehicle and "creating circumstances where the use of deadly force becomes necessary."

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