Police dash cam video,released April 17/08:Moments after firing twice into the car of a suspected DUI driver after it rammed his patrol car, Laurel Police Officer David Firebaugh stood over the man in a dark alley. The officer radioed his situation to a police dispatcher, identifying the suspect as Jonas Torres.
"No. Shoot me. Shoot me," Torres responded, and began to get up from the ground.
"Stay down!" the officer ordered.
"Shoot me," Torres repeated.
The officer then used a Taser on Torres, who fell back to the ground screaming in pain.
The encounter last November was captured on a patrol car video recorder, and until Thursday the video had been seen only by law enforcement authorities, Torres and his defense attorney, Jack Sands. It was released Thursday to The Billings Gazette following several months of legal negotiations that resulted in a District Court order signed late Wednesday by Judge Susan Watters.
The video provides a firsthand look at the encounter between Firebaugh and Torres, which resulted in disciplinary action against the officer and criminal charges against the Laurel man.
Prosecutors intend to play the video during a hearing today in Justice Court to consider a motion by Sands to dismiss one of the criminal charges, a misdemeanor DUI. In court records, Sands argues Firebaugh did not have sufficient cause to stop Torres, and Torres was not given a breath test "in a reasonable time."
Deputy County Attorney David Carter opposes the motion. The hearing will be held before Judge Larry Herman. Firebaugh is among the witnesses expected to testify.
Torres is also charged with a misdemeanor count of negligent endangerment.
In court records and in previous public statements, Torres and Sands have said the officers who arrested Torres used unnecessary force and racially charged language during the incident. Torres claimed he was "tortured" at the hands of Firebaugh and Yellowstone County Sheriff's Deputy Nick Reyna, who was the first officer to respond to Firebaugh's call for backup.
Firebaugh was disciplined with a letter of reprimand after a shooting review panel determined he violated policy when he twice fired his .40-caliber Glock at Torres' car after the car rammed his patrol car. The reprimand was removed from Firebaugh's personnel file a few weeks later.
In the video released Thursday, Torres can be seen pulling into the dead-end alley and parking lot of his apartment complex shortly after 2:30 a.m. Torres stopped the car in the alley, and Firebaugh stopped his patrol car, with its emergency lights flashing, several yards behind the car.
As Firebaugh was reporting his location to a dispatcher on his radio, he noticed Torres' car backing up toward him. The car accelerated quickly.
"Oh, I'm getting rammed, getting rammed," Firebaugh said as the two cars collided.
A moment later, Torres' car pulled forward, and the video camera captured the two gunshots fired by Firebaugh through the patrol car windshield. One of the shots can be seen smashing into the rear window of Torres' car, and shattered glass from the patrol car windshield is scattered across the hood.
Torres continued to drive a few more yards and pulled into an empty parking space. Firebaugh, whose pistol had jammed, can be heard reloading the weapon and getting out of the patrol car. With his firearm drawn, he approached Torres, who was getting out of his car. Torres put his hands on his head and went to the ground as ordered by the officer.
Firebaugh approached Torres and again spoke into his radio, telling the dispatcher that his suspect is named Jonas Torres.
After the officer used the Taser to control Torres, several minutes pass before Reyna arrives. During that time, Torres taunted and mocked Firebaugh, sometimes laughing loudly and shouting profanities.
At one point, Torres acted surprised when he heard Firebaugh report to a dispatcher that shots were fired and that the bullets had hit Torres' car.
"You shot my car? You're serious?" Torres said. "Why did you shoot my car?"
"Because you assaulted me with your vehicle, that's why," Firebaugh responded.
When Reyna arrived, the two officers can be seen walking the handcuffed Torres back to the patrol car. Reyna and Torres exchanged words, and suddenly Torres lunged at the deputy. The officers subdued Torres with a Taser before placing him in the back of the patrol car.
Later, as the video continues to record the scene, Reyna and Torres briefly discussed why Torres lunged at him. In a public statement days after the incident, Torres said Reyna used a racially charged word that sparked his violent response.
"I'm trying to bond with you speaking Spanish and bam," Reyna complains to Torres. "Holy cow."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Torres replies.
When Torres heard the officer give his name to the dispatcher, the 25-year-old man began questioning the officer.
"How do you know my name?" Torres asked. "How do you know me?"
Firebaugh told Torres to be quiet and stay on the ground.
|Liveleak on Facebook|