Officer rams cruiser into armed suspect


Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz.

Dramatic dash-cam videos of an arrest in Arizona showed an officer plowing his cruiser into an armed robbery suspect at high speed, once again putting police actions under the public microscope.

Experts on Wednesday called the officer’s tactics unconventional and even outrageous — but justified, given the circumstances.

The images police released Tuesday provoked intense responses among tens of thousands of people after they were posted on the Internet, providing a new angle to the national debate over policing. Some expressed outrage, accusing the officer of improperly using deadly force. Others said he deserves a medal for managing to quickly and safely end a standoff with a dangerous gunman.

The suspect’s defense lawyer called it excessive and unjustified.

“In watching the video, I think it was clear that it was not the appropriate action and that my client was not threatening to anybody except for himself,” attorney Michelle Cohen Metzger said Wednesday.

Prosecutors cleared Marana Police Officer Michael Rapiejko of any wrongdoing after he swerved around another officer who had been cautiously tailing the robbery suspect, then accelerated and rammed into the man’s back Feb. 19.

The videos show Mario Valencia, 36, cart-wheeling through the air in the instant before the cruiser breaks through a retaining wall, shattering its windshield. Rapiejko, 34, and other officers then jump out from all over, guns drawn, to make sure Valencia stays down.

The maneuver abruptly resolved what police called a violent crime spree by Valencia, who purportedly threatened officers with a stolen hunting rifle and fired a shot moments before the crash. Valencia purportedly stole the .30-.30 rifle from a Wal-Mart after police said he tried to set a church on fire, invaded a home and stole a car.

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