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Officer's use of force under investigation

Santa Ana police launch a probe after his patrol car is captured on video apparently crashing into a fleeing suspect.

September 14, 2007|Sara Lin | Times Staff Writer

Santa Ana police are investigating whether an officer used excessive force when he struck a fleeing suspect with his car in a crash captured on videotape, authorities said Thursday.

Jose Candilla Guzman, 19, of Santa Ana had threatened two people at knifepoint and struck a third in the head with a can of beer before fleeing on foot about 10 p.m. Tuesday, said Santa Ana Police Cpl. Jose Gonzalez.

The dark, grainy video shot by a photographer for the online magazine Celebrity Babylon shows a dark figure running through a restaurant parking lot and a police car speeding toward him. Moments later, the cruiser hits a concrete wall with a loud crunch.

"The officer's vehicle struck the suspect," Gonzalez said.

The officer then got out of the car and walked to the passenger side, where the suspect lay on the ground near the front of the car, Gonzalez said.

In the video, the officer leans toward the suspect and asks: "Buddy. Hey. You OK? Yes or no?" The reply is inaudible. A few seconds later, the officer turns to the videographer and says: "Get that outta here, dude."

The officer tells the cameraman to leave several more times before he grabs the camera and shoves it down. He then asks to see the video.

The cameraman later gave a copy of the tape to police, Gonzalez said.

Guzman was treated at a hospital for minor injuries and released into police custody.

Santa Ana police officials have opened an investigation into whether the officer intentionally struck the suspect and, if so, whether the action was an appropriate use of force, Gonzalez said.

Guzman appeared to be intoxicated when he accosted the three men near 17th and Main streets in Santa Ana, police said. He took a full can of beer from his pocket and struck one man in the head before drawing a knife and threatening two others. He bragged that he had a gun before fleeing on foot, Gonzalez said.

One of the alleged victims called 911 and followed Guzman into the parking lot, pointing the officer in Guzman's direction seconds before the crash.

The attack "appeared to be a random act," Gonzalez said.

Police recovered a knife and booked Guzman on assault with a deadly weapon.

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sara.lin@latimes.com

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