“You can see the deputy lost his footing. That is a dangerous situation for officers. If you’re slow to respond, it could have terrible consequences. Everything about this situation is extraordinarily difficult.”
More importantly, it would be rash to make a determination based solely on bodycam footage, Adams said. He wants to see, hear and read more about this shooting.
“I think it’s too early to offer opinions,” he said. “We don’t know which resources were or weren’t on the way. You have to be especially careful when applying urban policing lessons to rural settings. I was a city officer. My backup was always 30 seconds to a minute away. In these settings, you’re gonna have to handle it on your own.”
Robert Weisberg, law professor and faculty co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, also empathizes with the deputies as they pursue Pelaez-Chavez in the video.
But it’s questionable whether this qualifies as a justifiable shooting under a law passed in California in 2019, Weisberg said. The new statute, which replaced the old “fleeing felon law,” states that officers must have a reasonable fear that a suspect is threatening deadly force against them or others.
“There certainly is no visual evidence (Pelaez-Chavez) had a gun,” Weisberg said. “Dietrick is really pretty close. I don’t know if it’s 12 feet or 20 feet. But even in this video, which the sheriffs released, I don’t see a lot of base for thinking he had a gun. Indeed, the action that precipitates the shooting is clearly picking up a rock.
“Then the issue becomes, if there’s no reason to think it was a gun, is it reasonable to believe the throwing of the rock could pose a fatal threat. And that’s a hard one.”
The deputies’ pursuit of Pelaez-Chavez was clearly handled