Anyone who sees the lights and hears the siren of a police car behind them automatically feels nervous. If they have been drinking, they may worry that the police will arrest them for a DUI, even if they are not technically over the limit. A DUI traffic stop could result in jail time, fines, fees, and a suspended license. However, one California driver got a lot more than he bargained for when he got shot by a police officer as he was exiting his wrecked car.
Andrew Thomas, 26-years-old, and his wife may have made a mistake when they got into their Toyota 4Runner after allegedly having too much to drink. However, suspicion of driving while intoxicated does not warrant a police officer pulling a gun and shooting the driver who was simply climbing out of the rolled over vehicle. Thomas was paralyzed as a result of the gunshot, and has since died of his injuries.
The incident was recorded on a police dash cam. Police were pursuing a fleeing Thomas, who apparently hit a median, flipping the car over on the side. Police officer Patrick Feaster then approached the vehicle with his gun drawn. Thomas then began to climb out the side window, to escape the wrecked the vehicle, when Feaster fired his pistol. Thomas then slumped back into the car. Adding further injury to family members, Thomas's 23-year-old wife, Darien Ehorn also died in the accident.
Feaster called in the incident on the radio after the shooting, failing to report that he fired his weapon. “I've got an unresponsive female. I've got a male refusing to get out.” Meanwhile, Thomas was reportedly calling out to officers more than once that he'd been shot, without Feaster acknowledging that he fired his gun.
It took more than 10 minutes until Feaster finally said something to anyone about firing his weapon. Feaster eventually said to his commander, “I don't think I shot him, but the gun did go off.” The dash cam footage shows a much different picture. Police officers did not immediately ask for medical attention to be called, despite one person shot in the neck, and Ehorn laying on the ground, still breathing at the time.
Thomas was to be charged with vehicular manslaughter DUI related to Ehorn's death, under California Penal Code 191.5. However, despite the efforts of doctors working for nearly a month to repair the damage to Thomas' vertebrae from Feaster's gunshot wound, he finally passed away.
After footage of the unjustified shooting came out, public protest called for Feaster's arrest. However, Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey still did not charge Feaster. Ramsey claims that the accident was accidental, possibly even negligent, but the DA said Feaster accidentally shooting Thomas in the neck did not rise to the level of a crime. However, Ramsey did not specifically address why Feaster failed to report that he had discharged his weapon until later.
If you were charged with a DUI or manslaughter DUI, you need a lawyer who will investigate your case to make sure you are not taken advantage of by the police and prosecutors. With more than 30 years of experience defending people facing a DUI in the East Bay, Lynn Gorelick understands the local laws and penalties involved. I Contact a local East Bay DUI defense attorney who understands the DUI charges you are facing, and is familiar with the local laws, prosecutors and the courts.