CHP Shooting That Killed Teen Raises Concern About Firing on Moving Vehicles

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When two undercover California Highway Patrol officers opened fire on a moving vehicle in Fullerton this weekend, they used a tactic that federal authorities and law enforcement experts consider dangerous and has been banned by police leaders in Los Angeles, New York and several other major U.S. cities

A pickup truck that CHP officers fired upon, killing the driver, is shown in Fullerton on July 4, 2016. (Credit: OnScene.TV)

A pickup truck that CHP officers fired upon, killing the driver, is shown in Fullerton on July 4, 2016. (Credit: OnScene.TV)

Law enforcement experts say there’s a simple reason why many agencies bar officers from shooting at moving cars, even if drivers appear to be attempting to ram them: Police service weapons are unlikely to stop a speeding vehicle, and firing a barrage of rounds might only serve to increase the danger faced by officers and bystanders if the driver is shot and unable to control the car.

“Only a fool thinks a … bullet is going to stop a 3,800 pound car. Nobody is really shooting at the vehicle, they’re shooting at the driver,” said Sid Heal, a retired L.A. County sheriff’s commander and chairman of strategy development for the National Tactical Officers Assn. “Then the natural thing is, what’s going to happen if you stop the driver? Is it going to prevent the attack? If not, it’s fruitless.”

CHP officers fatally shot a driver in Fullerton late July 3, 2016. (Credit: OnScene.TV)

CHP officers fatally shot a driver in Fullerton late July 3, 2016. (Credit: OnScene.TV)

The undercover CHP officers, part of a larger detail aimed at combating street racing over the holiday weekend, were monitoring a “sideshow” where truck drivers were performing dangerous burnouts on Sunday evening outside the Santa Fe Springs swap meet, police said. As uniformed officers closed in, 19-year-old Pedro Erik Villanueva, of Canoga Park, fled the area in a red Chevrolet Silverado pickup trick at speeds approaching 90 mph, the CHP has said.

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