Orlando officer cleared in shooting
Internal Affairs ignores policy against firing into moving cars
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.