“A man wanted in a home invasion robbery near Los Angeles was shot to death Friday by a sharpshooter hovering above in a police helicopter,” upi.com reports. The robbery suspect had led police on a high-speed chase on I-295 before smashing head-on into an unsuspecting motorist’s vehicle and taking off on foot. The unnamed California cop shot and killed the perp. The homicide echoes a controversial incident in Texas . . .

In October 2012, a state police officer with The Texas Department of Public Safety shot at an unarmed vehicle on the outskirts of the border town of La Joya, killing illegal immigrant Marcos Antonio Castro Estrada. Texas changed its airborne engagement policy after the incident. California did not. While I understand that police are legally empowered to shoot a fleeing suspect if they believe he’s a danger to society, this ain’t right. Is it?

[h/t andypantera69]

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65 Responses to CA Police Helicopter Sniper Shoots and Kills Robbery Suspect

  1. If they believe…

    It’s hard to find a Fed that doesn’t believe I’m a threat to society… Everyone who thinks human rights are a good idea are a threat…

  2. California can solve a lot of its budget crisis with this notion: instead of taking out feral pigs via helicopter in texas, take out feral thugs via helicopter in CA. Hell, I would spend a $1,000 to go up with the po-po for an hour or so to take a turn.

  3. Yes, it is right. When a known dangerous felon is fleeing and creating more danger and carnage, that person needs to be stopped ASAP. Give that heli-COP-ter a big Job-Well-Done. One less scum bag to terrorize the decent folks.

    • Cops should face the same consequences for shooting a fleeing perp that you or I would. I’m not saying it shouldn’t happen, I’m saying that if I’m robbed and the guy runs and I know I can hit him, I should be allowed to, just like the cops are. If I’m not allowed, then the cops shouldn’t be, either. No special rules or carved-outside just because you’re a govt employee.

      • The state has rights we do not. They have the right to wield the sword. They have the right of eminent domain. They have the right to prosecute, judge, and sentence. The police are an arm of the state entrusted with protecting and serving the public. Respect the system. It works surprising well. Crying that life is unfair because you want what they have is childish, churlish, and naive.

        • “The state has rights we do not. They have the right to wield the sword. They have the right of eminent domain. They have the right to prosecute, judge, and sentence. The police are an arm of the state entrusted with protecting and serving the public.”
          Those are not rights; they are priviledges & duties of the city/state’s representatives & public servants, which are assigned to the city/state by the voting, tax-paying general public.
          Cops, meter-maids, judges, prosecutors, etc, don’t have extra rights outside of those listed in the Constitution.
          But WE DO have the right to question/remove those who abuse or exceed the scope of their jobs.

    • He is suspected of being a home invader, a highly dangerous criminal. Once given the opportunity to surrender, with the classic “halt! Or I will fire!”, and refuses to surrender, machine-gun the bitch, I’m behind you. This is not about fairness, it is not a hunt, it is protecting the people he was just about to attack, as soon as he reached a home to invade.

        • If he in fact committed the crime, and home owner was armed and at home, he would have lost said rights anyway, no? So, the result is good by me if all stated were fact.

        • He doesn’t “lose” his right to due process, he is actively fleeing from that right! All he had to do was surrender to that vaunted ‘due process’ in order to enjoy it fully. Instead he decided he wanted no part of your process.

        • +1 Hannibal. He was a home invader and where do we all live with our spouses and loved one’s?

          TAKE. THE. SHOT.

  4. I’m of mixed emotions on this.
    We often say that a car is no less dangerous than a gun, and “unarmed” is often a laughably incorrect way to imply someone isn’t a threat. Especially when they are hurling down the road in a vehicle that refusing all orders from the police.

    That said, it sounds like they were trying to disable what they thought was a drug running vehicle and the deaths were accidental.
    Its not unusual to try and disable a runaway vehicle by way of a helicopter gunner. It sounds like things worked out unfortunately this time.

  5. Driving wrong way on the freeway and causing injury is a righteous 21651 (c) VC – a felony. Add that to the other alleged felonies, and I’m inclined to think this was a righteous shoot by the CA cop.

    P.S. It wasn’t me.

    • I take no delight in death. I don’t dance in the blood of thugs or criminals. Yet, this was a good shoot as it served to protect the public from a scumbag endangering the lives of others.
      Robert, quit police baiting with your #blacklivesmatter cop-killing agenda disguised as pro-gun pablum–it creates a hostile environment for the police and taints this blog.

      • agreed! If Robert were the only one writing on this site I’d have left long ago. A pro gun leftist is still a leftist.
        Of course putting down a violent criminal is right, and injuring innocent people in this fashion is a violent crime.

      • I think the vid was the TX incident. The digitized certified copy should be securely stored in an evidence locker pending the outcome of the shooting. The I-215 is a definitely a freeway.

    • ah yep. invade a home, you will get the unwanted visitors prize 2 servings of lead. if you get back up you get servings.

      if you invade our Home aka Country, expect the same.

  6. I get the feeling your taking issue with where the sharp shooter took the shot from. Would you have still called in to question the shot if the sharp shooter had taken the shot from the top of a near by building, a freeway over pass, or over the hood of a squad car. I bet you would have found it to be a justifiable shooting from those location. The suspect could have given up after the head on collision. But choose to take off on foot and do anything not to be caught. Leaving that head on crash was proof he was will to hurt or kill anyone that got in his way. That sharp shooter may have saved an innocent person or family for that matter from the trauma of being car jacked.

  7. Only question I have is how they “knew” he was the home invader. All I see is “suspect”. But I’m inclined to agree with Accur8t, to the extent that someone fleeing the wrong way down a highway needs to be stopped, whatever it takes to stop him.

    • if you flee from cops and continue to drive indangering others… you might get shot when they try to stop the car.

      if you run or fight back… you better get away or win the fight. if not you will die. if you do win/get away better have proof your where innocent and the cop was corrupt.

      best to obey and get it over with. worst you get held a few extra minutes and released.

  8. He invaded someone’s home and then fled, crashing his car head on onto another with three people in it who needed to be hospitalized? Yeah, shoot the bastard. And thank the un-named officer for the taxpayer relief shot.

    • I like those last three words you used “Taxpayer relief shot”. TTAG ought to adopt that phrase when writing about criminals that have been shot to death. The more I think about it, the more I love it.
      Lets all say it!
      TAXPAYER RELIEF SHOT!

  9. I dont get it…. If the cop was justified in the shoot does it matter where he shot from? Is the cop more justified if he shoots from the ground? What if it was a Wednesday? Would he be less justified on a Wednesday? What if the victim was Hispanic? Would the cop be more justified? Deadly force is deadly force….. You, me, and Dupree are held to the same standard if we shoot somebody. … Now if he violated a policy, upset someone watcing this on TV, or made some beaurocrat upset, then thats something different.

    • I think the cop gets extra credit for making the shot from a chopper. There seems like a lot of variables to account for; angle, distance and windage of course but what about rotor downwash, moving target, moving platform, target backdrop and so on. Teamwork really….

  10. I have mixed feelings on this, but none of the feelings are outrage… so I’m just gonna give a pass on this one.

    On an intellectual level though, I always defended the proliferation of police having drones because it seemed silly to worry about them since they were no different in function than police helicopters have been for decades. And being as that police helicopters were never weaponized, why worry that drones would be weaponized. Now that argument just got flipped on it’s head. Sort of. Mostly.

  11. He’s a clear and immediate threat to the public. He’s causing destruction and mayhem as he goes. He needs to be put down.

  12. From what I read, the guy was in a high speed chase, 100mph, wrong way on the freeway and was a robbery suspect. He was speeding toward killing someone innocent. If this isn’t the textbook needs-killing-right-now scenario, I don’t know what is.

  13. In principle, I’m OK with it. In practice, it depends on the circumstances of the case. I’m OK with the police having this tool available to them. I would just want to be sure that only sharpshooters are taking such shots, that they’ve trained for airborne shots at moving targets, and that there is a written protocol in place that they must adhere to.

    I wouldn’t grant carte blanche for lethal force the ground. So I certainly wouldn’t consent to anything goes in the sky. However I would agree that this is an option legally available to police. Whether a particular city should, as a practical matter, actually take advantage of this option, like an MRAP, is another discussion.

  14. People can/do believe anything.

    To put it simply. Their job isn’t to murder/kill, it’s to arrest. Obviously, shooting someone isn’t arresting them.

    Vigilante: 1. any person who takes the law into his or her own hands, as by avenging a crime.
    2. done violently and summarily, without recourse to lawful procedures

    • Shooting a suspect IS a method of taking them in to custody. They aren’t free to go, lesser means aren’t feasable or reasonable to effect the arrest, and they pose a substantial/immediate and articulable risk to life.

  15. Well, I haven’t heard about any other random vehicles being shot in this action, so for Cali that’s a win.

    I think Robert’s and others’ discomfort with this action is that there’s no argument that the cops in the chopper were in any danger. Usually we expect a defensive shooter to say that they were in fear for their life – here that’s clearly not the case. BUT it seems pretty clear that there was serious and ongoing threat to the lives of all those other folks on the highway – if the evidence supports that, then it looks like a good shoot to me.

    • And it was done with surgical precision. Not like Stockton Ca where the PD unloads 600 plus rounds into the car and surrounding neighborhood and kill a hostage in the process.

  16. A lot if people here claim to be Libertarians conflate liberty and anarchy. Libertarianism is a simple concept. A market economy is the best way to solve the economic priblem and the purpose of government is to provide public goods. Public safety is one very essential public good. So when someone invades a person’s home and then flees the scene of the crime all the while threatening bystanders with death or bodily harm it is right and proper for the police to use deadly force to stop him. That is a long winded way of saying good shoot.

    As an aside, the founders of the Libertarian movement never used the term to describe themselves. I believe Milton Friedman was the first to coin the term. By the 1980s Libertarianism became a synthesis of Rand’s nihilism and Rothbard’s anarchism which denied the existence of public goods. If public goods do not exist than police power is illegitimate. Hence the belief that the killing of a home invader whose actions threatened others during his attempted escape was a homicide. I suppose if an armed citizen popped the perp Robert would be calling him the gun hero of the day.

    • “A lot if people here claim to be Libertarians conflate liberty and anarchy. Libertarianism is a simple concept………..”. Nothing means what it used to. “Liberal” once meant less government more freedom, “Conservative” used to mean thinking before doing, caution in change just for the sake of change, “socialism” means what it has always meant, universal slavery. “Democratic Republic Under The Constitution” used to be a government responsible to the citizens of this country. That has changed to “rule by personal agenda”. Not as simple, of course, just an outline. Pick it as you like it.

    • A homicide is one human killing an other. All shooting deaths (justified or otherwise) are homicides….. I think you’re trying to shoe horn this shooting in to a murder, which it isn’t. Everything is pointing to a justified shoot… There are so many gray area police shootings to scrutinize, I’m surprised we’re having this conversation.

  17. I have a few thoughts…

    If there was a lengthy chase this would have been a great time to actually use one of those Barretts that I see police pictured with from time to time but rarely hear of them using, and try to knock out the vehicle. Might even be able to take him alive if the planet line up right! That isn’t to say that I care that this guy was ghosted, I couldn’t possibly care less to be honest, it was just a thought.

    On the other hand, having shooters overhead doesn’t bother me except for that fact that the legal threshold for use of deadly force is almost certainly way lower than for those on the ground, police and civilians alike, let me explain.

    For anyone, police or civilian, if you are in fear of your life or the lives of others you are pretty well justified in using deadly force to eliminate the cause of the aforementioned fear. That includes that guy up in the helo, but he is almost certainly not going to be privy to the information readily available to anyone on the ground. What is the guy shouting, what does he have in his hands, are his actions threatening, these questions are often unable to be answered with a high degree of certainty by those nearby, let alone from a few hundred feet overhead in a vibrating helo.

    My guess is that a reasonable person, which is the general standard, would be able to justify deadly force far more often than if they were on the ground. You don’t have to be right about the threat, just reasonable, and the limited perspective does lower that bar somewhat.

    I don’t have problems with airborne shooters, but I can see why some people and police departments might hesitate and/or implement a lot of controls.

  18. Maybe the next violent criminal in that jurisdiction won’t flee from the cops and endanger others in the process.

    That’s probably giving criminals too much credit for thinking. But I’m pretty sure that particular criminal wont’ be doing it again.

  19. Another report says: “The San Bernardino County sheriff sniper fired at least nine times, striking the home invasion suspect at least once, who then exited the still-rolling vehicle and stumbled a few feet before dropping dead.

    The bullet-riddled Chevy Tahoe then struck a Dodge Durango with two adults and a 13-year-old boy, leaving all three hospitalized. A male adult and the boy were treated and released. A female adult remains hospitalized.”

    They seem to be saying that he was NOT shot while on foot.
    When you put it that way, it sounds like the “sniper” just sprayed the suspect vehicle, and it sounds like the shooting was the proximate cause of the crash.

    I’m not suggesting the shooter was culpable, but it does make one wonder what sort of idiots chase a suspect the wrong way down the freeway at 100mph.

    I’ve seen comments on this page blaming the suspect for “initiating” a police chase. Use your brains, people. The fleeing suspect is not in our employ. The people who chased him are in our employ, and should be under our control.

  20. While I understand that police are legally empowered to shoot a fleeing suspect if they believe he’s a danger to society, this ain’t right. Is it?

    Cop#1: Damn! We shot him. He’s dead. He was unarmed and running. What are we going to do?

    Cop#2: Shut up rookie. We just say he was a danger to society. It’s what we always say.

  21. It seems like every commenter is missing the point on this one. Of course we all agree that this guy should have been taken out. But if it’s against the law for police to fire from aircraft in CA- Why was there a sniper in the helicopter in the first place?
    And if the people that are supposed to be upholding the law are not obeying it… Why should anyone?

  22. Although I respect everyone’s opinion, I cannot believe that it isn’t acknowledged that all the fact are not present in this helicopter shooting. The “home invader” was like family to me and he was a scared young man. He didn’t always make the correct decisions but he had a will and a way to change his life for the better. Where is the footage of that afternoon? Yes there was an innocent pedestrian that did get his rear car window shot out which nearly missed his toddler child sitting in a car seat. Not 20 ft from Nick Johnsons body is a bunch of holes in the ground for all the shots the helicopter missed. Unknown to the public was that when he entered the wrong side of the freeway he did so out of panic. He called his girlfriend yelling “babe they are shooting at me, why are they shooting at me” . He was not armed with any type of weapon that could warrant the police aircraft to start shooting without exhausting any other effort to stop this scared young man who deserved to live to fight his case in a court of law. The sheriffs dept. stated that they started to shoot based on the need to maintain the safety of the traffic on the fwy which accordingly other types of vehicle pursuit should’ve been applied if the fwy was empty enough to go ahead and start shooting large caliber ammunition. But the simple fact that he was able to hop out of that vehicle that had enough velocity to crumble the front end after all the bullets fired at him and the ground moving quickly under his feet implies that, with the absence of major blood loss, he was actually killed where he dropped in which it would’ve been obvious he had no gun. I am disgusted that the large part of society is all for just murdering anyone that is a suspect and without knowing the full details. I don’t even have all the facts except that which is blantantly obvious because the sheriffs have acted as if in a shooting as important to review as this, no tape exists? The pilot of the helicopter had only 3 yrs on the force, the shooter only 8 years to have shot so many bullets but with the absence of blood until the killing shot outside of the vehicle, that hardly classifies him as a sharpshooter, ask the father of that toddler what he thinks of the shooters aim.

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