This week 26-year-old Andrew Thomas died from gunshot wounds sustained on November 26, fired by Paradise Police Officer Patrick Feaster. On December 10, Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey announced that his office would not be charging the officer for firing at the man who was fleeing police in a suspected drunk driving incident.
Mr. Ramsey initially called the shooting “an accident,” stating that the officer “did not intentionally fire his pistol” and that “he was in shock at the scene and not certain his weapon had actually discharged.” He called the shooting negligent, but not criminal.
However, a Chico TV station is now reporting that the death of Mr. Thomas now raises additional questions such as whether the officer’s “negligent action in handling his firearm rises to the level of criminal negligence necessary to prove a potential charge of involuntary manslaughter.” There is also the fact that Officer Feaster made the decision to wait 11 minutes before reporting that his gun fired and whether that fact contributed to the death of Mr. Thomas.
The video is captured by dashcam and it paints a questionable case that this was a negligent shooting.
The incident began when Officer Feaster, who some media say “prides himself on cracking down on drunk drivers and winning awards from MADD, noticed a car leaving a bar without its headlights on.” He immediately pursued the vehicle, which struck the median and rolled over.
What we see on the video is the officer exiting his vehicle, and pulling out his gun as Mr. Thomas is trying to climb out of the car. Immediately the officer opens fire and Mr. Thomas collapses.
How the DA determines this is an accidental shooting is anyone’s guess.
“I’ve got an unresponsive female … I’ve got a male refusing to get out,” the officer says after Mr. Thomas falls back into the car. It takes the officer 11 minutes before telling responding officers that he fired his gun.
But there is more here. Not only did he wait 11 minutes, he lied about what happened by claiming that the male was refusing to get out.
In fact, he doubles down on that claim because, when additional officers arrive, he repeats that “there is a male in the car refusing to get out.”
The other officers continue to order Thomas out of the car.
“Get out of the car, sir, you’re not shot, sir, get out of the car,” said one of the officers. Then later: “Did you get shot at the Canteena? Who shot you? The cop did not shoot you.”
The police were apparently going to return to the bar to find out who shot Mr. Thomas when Officer Feaster finally admitted, “I think I shot him… I wasn’t even pointing at him but the gun did go off.”
Butte County DA Mike Ramsey apparently bought into this story, “The dash cam video shows Officer Feaster was not prepared for and was surprised by the gun’s firing. The pistol discharges in mid-stride and the officer both flinches his head to the right and does a stutter step indicative of an officer not prepared for nor intentionally firing his pistol. Additionally, officers normally train to fire a minimum of two shots. There was no second shot and the officer immediately holstered his weapon after the discharge.”
That is certainly not what I saw on the video. He pulled out the gun, aimed, opened fire, and after hitting the victim, he calmly placed his gun back in the holster.
Paradise Mayor Jody Jones said, “The Town of Paradise is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Andrew Thomas, who was shot by a Town of Paradise police officer following a driving under the influence incident and roll over collision that killed Darien Ehorn, a passenger in Mr. Thomas’ vehicle.”
“The Town of Paradise Police Department is conducting an investigation into the incident that led to the death of Mr. Thomas. The investigation will be thorough and impartial in its review of every aspect of the Town’s response, including the shooting of Mr. Thomas and the delay in information becoming known to supervising officers involved at the accident scene,” she said.
“The investigation is underway and will take some time to complete,” she added. “At the same time, the Town has and will continue to cooperate in every way with any investigation by the District Attorney’s Office and any other agency that investigates the case.”
Here’s information from the local broadcast:
—David M. Greenwald reporting