Or­lando of­fi­cer cleared in shoot­ing

In­ter­nal Affairs ig­nores pol­icy against fir­ing into mov­ing cars

Orlando Sentinel - - Local & State - By Tess Sheets

Of­fi­cer Alex Chase didn’t vi­o­late agency pol­icy when he shot a man who was flee­ing from po­lice in a stolen car out­side a shop­ping plaza in 2018, an Or­lando Po­lice Depart­ment in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion found.

Chase, who had been cleared by the State At­tor­ney’s Of­fice in Oc­to­ber of any po­ten­tial crim­i­nal charges, was ex­on­er­ated by In­ter­nal Affairs in­ves­ti­ga­tors in April. The de­ter­mi­na­tion was made de­spite a pol­icy that gen­er­ally pro­hibits OPD of­fi­cers from fir­ing into mov­ing cars.

In the In­ter­nal Affairs re­port, in­ves­ti­ga­tor Michael Stan­ley de­ter­mined the Nov. 2018 shoot­ing was within pol­icy and was the “ob­jec­tively rea­son­able” op­tion given the cir­cum­stances. Chase was “fear­ing for his life” when he shot four times at 26-year-old Ba­cilio Martinez, who had peeled out of a park­ing spot in front of a day spa near Universal Boule­vard, Stan­ley wrote.

Martinez had driven to the shop­ping plaza af­ter steal­ing the ve­hi­cle dur­ing a test drive in the South Se­moran area, au­thor­i­ties said. Chase and other of­fi­cers tracked him there and sur­rounded him with their patrol ve­hi­cles as he re­treated back into the stolen Mit­subishi Eclipse, which was backed into a park­ing spot in front of the spa.

The of­fi­cers or­dered Martinez to show his hands and, as he put the car in re­verse, one cop shat­tered his driver side win­dow, body cam­era footage showed. Martinez backed the car into the day spa, shat­ter­ing the glass store­front, and drove for­ward.

As he sped past Chase, the of­fi­cer fired through the shat­tered win­dow at Martinez, “who did not stop and con­tin­ued to drive out of the park­ing lot where a ve­hi­cle pur­suit en­sued,” Stan­ley wrote.

Martinez later crashed into an­other ve­hi­cle in the Lake Nona area. He later told of­fi­cers he was driv­ing to find a hos­pi­tal.

He was sen­tenced last year to five years in prison as part of a plea deal on charges of ag­gra­vated as­sault on a law en­force­ment of­fi­cer with a deadly weapon, flee­ing or at­tempt­ing to elude a law en­force­ment of­fi­cer and grand theft of a mo­tor ve­hi­cle.

In an in­ter­view with Stan­ley, Chase said he thought Martinez had dis­abled the Eclipse when he crashed through the store front but, when he saw the tires spin and the car start to move for­ward, he felt he had no op­tion but to shoot.

“I was in fear for my life,” he told Stan­ley, ac­cord­ing to a sum­mary of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “I thought that my only op­tion was to do what I did… or oth­er­wise be ran over by the ve­hi­cle and you know se­ri­ously in­jured or killed.”

A sergeant who re­views use of force cases also ap­proved of Chase’s ac­tions, say­ing in an in­ter­view with Stan­ley that in­ci­dent un­folded rapidly.

“He was do­ing just what we know of hu­man per­for­mance and that is, ‘I see stim­u­lus, I’m de­cid­ing what to do and I’m act­ing upon it,‘” Sgt. David Had­dock said.

Though OPD’s pol­icy says of­fi­cers “are pro­hib­ited from dis­charg­ing their firearms at a mov­ing ve­hi­cle un­less a per­son in the ve­hi­cle is im­me­di­ately threat­en­ing the of­fi­cer or an­other per­son with deadly force by means other than the ve­hi­cle,” it notes that may not cover ev­ery shoot­ing.

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