A dash-cam video released Tuesday shows an Arizona city police officer ramming his car into an armed suspect in February. The video has sparked controversy and invited fresh criticism of law enforcement officials over the use of excessive force, which has been a growing concern in the United States over the past year.
The video, taken from two different police cruisers, show Mario Valencia walking away from a police car and apparently firing shots into the air from a rifle, which he allegedly stole from a local Walmart store. A police vehicle then rams into the 36-year-old man before crashing into a brick wall. Valencia reportedly survived the Feb. 19 incident and later faced several felony charges, including assault on a police officer. The incident took place in the town of Marana, about 90 miles southeast of Phoenix.
"It's definitely not standard procedure, but the officer feared that the suspect was going to do some damage," Marana police spokesman Sgt. Chris Warren said, according to Reuters. "It very well could have been a mass casualty kind of thing."
Valencia's attorney, Michelle Metzger, called the officer's actions "shocking," and an example of the use of "excessive police force," according to NBC News. He added: “It is miraculous that my client isn't dead.” Valencia was reportedly hospitalized in serious condition for two days but later recovered.
The officer involved in the incident was identified as Michael Rapiejko, who was put on administrative leave following the incident, but reportedly returned to duty three days later.
"The guy probably is still alive because the officer took the action that he took," Marana Police Chief Terry Rozema told NBC station KVOA."Had he continued to press down the street ... these officers have no choice but to begin firing."
Here is the dash-cam footage of the incident.