Paradise Officer Won’t Face Charges in ‘Accidental’ Shooting

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PARADISE--

The Butte County District Attorney is responding to growing discontent over his decision not to press charges against a Paradise Police Officer who shot a man while that man was trying to climb out of a wrecked car after an accident.

And it was all caught on video.

District Attorney Mike Ramsey calls the shooting “accidental,” and went through video of the incident, frame by frame, with a group of protestors in the Butte County Board of Supervisors’ chambers Monday.

It was minutes before midnight, Thanksgiving morning. Paradise Police Officer Patrick Feaster turned on his lights and hit the gas pedal on his police cruiser. He was chasing after a suspected drunk driver.

What happens next is a nightmare.

The Toyota 4-Runner Feaster is following violently flips. A passenger thrown out and killed. In the next moments you see Officer Feaster walk from the left into frame of the dashboard camera mounted on his own cruiser.

He walks into frame, and shoots.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey says his office never attempted to hide that video.

“I'm the one that released the tape," Ramsey said.

He is also the man who has decided Officer Feaster won't face charges for shooting 26-year-old Andrew Thomas that day.

"We knew we were going to take a great deal of criticism," he said.

But Ramsey says he can only come to one conclusion: that Officer Feaster fired his Glock service pistol by accident.

He went over the video with FOX40, frame by frame. At full speed, it looks like Officer Feaster fires twice. But Ramsey says once the video is slowed down, you can tell what looks like a second muzzle flash is actually a flashlight, attached to the bottom of the weapon, reflecting off exhaust gasses and dust.

So there's only one shot that drops Andrew Thomas.

Thomas is now accused of causing an accident that killed his wife. Police say his Blood Alcohol Content was .15 percent, nearly twice the legal limit to drive. He'll face manslaughter charges for his accident. But Ramsey says he can't charge Officer Feaster for an accidentally shooting a man who will survive, but may never walk again.

Just because it's an accident, does that make it legal?

“It doesn't make it legal. But it doesn't give us a crime," Ramsey said.

He said there is no provision in California Law that criminalizes a police officer who shoots a man accidentally, but doesn’t kill him.

Intentional act or accident, many in Paradise are saying the questions about officer’s actions shouldn’t overshadow the fact that a woman lost her life in the incident.

"She was one of those people so naturally beautiful, she glowed with her spirit,” said Steven Scott, who lives right next to the accident scene.

Twenty-three-year-old Darien Ehorn was a mother, and Thomas' wife. She'd stuck with him, on and off, through the years it took Thomas to build up a thick criminal case file. In it, time and time again, Thomas was cited for running from police during arrest.

Ehorn was thrown from the car in the accident, and in the video, lays at Officer Feaster's feet dying. Feaster is looking down. But Ramsey says he's not looking at her. In fact, Officer Feaster never interacts with Ehorn at all.

Instead, he's looking for his spent shell casing.

It will be 11 minutes before the officer tells other responding units, including his supervisor, that he's shot his weapon. Ramsey admits that had investigators questioning Officer Feaster’s credibility. But it his opinion, it wasn’t enough to bring charges.

“The important issue is, did he willfully, intentionally, purposefully pull that trigger, or not," Ramsey said.

And Ramsey says everything he sees, from the single shot to the stance the officer fires from, makes him believe it was a mistake.