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From the Sacramento Bee: An Elk Grove police officer acted lawfully in January when he fired his AR-15 rifle at a handcuffed suspect, seated in the back of a patrol car, who officers thought may still have been armed, according to Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully…

 No weapon was found on then-32-year-old John Hesselbein when officers searched him for the second time after the shooting.

In her 11-page letter to police Chief Robert Lehner absolving the officer of any criminal liability, Scully argued that the officer had reason to believe Hesselbein was dangerous and that the officer “had the right to act in self-defense and in defense of his fellow officers.”

Hesselbein was shot Jan. 30 after his wife called police to report he was drunk and abusive. His cheek was grazed by the rifle round.

I’m not sure what’s more surprising here. That the officer found it necessary to shoot Hesselbein with a rifle while cuffed in the back of a squad car. That the shoot was found justified. Or that Hesselbein was only grazed by the bullet.

It is one of the final officer-involved shootings that Scully’s office will review. After grappling with a $6.9 million budget shortfall – and the layoffs of 31 prosecutors – Scully disbanded the unit assigned to such investigate criminal liability in such shootings.

Probably just as well.

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  1. Pffffttttttt…………….Couldn’t hit an unarmed, handcuffed suspect, sitting in the back of a squad car, with a rifle? Are you kidding me? This cop should be suspended for incompetence based on his lack of marksmanship alone.

  2. After what has happened in LV recently, nothing that police do suprises me. Shoot first, check for cameras and file the report.

  3. Not only can’ they can’t shoot straight it appears they also can’t perform adequate body searches to insure the perp had no weapons. Also is it SOP to go for head shots (ie. they grazed his cheek) vs. a torso shot? Or is this just indicative of his inability to shoot straight?

  4. Man gets drunk and makes wife mad. Wife calls cops and the cops shoot the man all because she said he was abusive (Might or might not be true. Not enough evidence in what was posted to know). If anyone is curious, this is how you legally kill someone bigger than you. Call the cops on them and say they’re abusive and seem violent. Also suggest they might have a gun but you’re not sure “I saw something black that he was trying to hide. It might have been a gun” They’ll send out 5 squad cars and if the person doesn’t go down immediately one of the officers will get an itchy trigger finger, most likely because they’re practicing poor trigger discipline, and shoot you. The other four officers hearing a shot will also start shooting. The investigative board won’t find any of the cops guilty of wrongdoing because it was reported there was a potential gun and the person who called the cops will get off as long as they sound distressed on the 911 call.

    The police state is depressing.

  5. This has to be a joke. Someone please tell me that this is just an elaborate hoax.

    “… the officer had reason to believe (handcuffed on the pack of a squad car) Hesselbein was dangerous and that the officer “had the right to act in self-defense and in defense of his fellow officers.”
    There’s no way she said that with a straight face.

  6. In the past, cops used to shoot a suspect and then cuff him. Now they cuff a suspect and then shoot him. In the future, they’ll cuff him and shoot him, then decide if he’s a suspect.

  7. @Daniel Zimmerman: Doggone it, this is the second time this week you have pulled my leg. Once again, you left out one entire half of the story. You totally forgot to mention that the man in the back seat of the patrol car was screaming that he had a gun, was threatening to shoot the officers, and was thrashing around in the car as though he were trying to get to a gun. I’m not sure these facts exonerate the officer, but I do think they were at least worth mentioning, don’t you?

    • I would have, if I’d seen the report at your link.

      Even so, you have to assume that, if the cops had done their job, the drunk was searched when cuffed. Wouldn’t they then know he was just a ranting drunk?

      “The report says one of the officers believed Hesselbein was about to shoot…”

      Really? Sitting in the back of the car. Hands cuffed behind him. And they thought he was about to shoot? Doesn’t pass the smell test.

      • The real question is why did the officer even have his AR out? It seems like the most obvious time to use less than lethal force is when the perpetrator is hand cuffed in the back seat of your car.

        My guess is this was a negligent discharge and then the officer had to scramble for a reason that he fired a rifle at a handcuffed suspect.

      • I agree there are a lot of questions here, but that’s just the point. When the story seems so completely lop-sided that it seems like a caricature, it probably is. There’s your tell that you might be getting only part of the story.

    • Was this documented (as in recorded on camera) or is it just Officer Trigger-Happy SAYING that the guy did that?

  8. When I was on the job we didn’t have very much training but we were chosen for our proven ability to perform the job while using common sense. Now it’s all about training and not nearly enough time is put into picking the right people. It would be politically incorrect to use common sense when screening prospects, I guess.
    Who the heck knows what these goof-ups are thinking.

  9. Why would a cop use a rifle to take down a perp within the closed confines of a car? I’m guessing he had to shoot through the wire cage. Does that make sense? Or he was standing outside of his car and then shot inside. Either there is more to this story than we know, or things are very odd in Elk Grove. Or both.

    Whatever the case, this story as reported in the Bee is typical of today’s “journalism.” That is, worthless as far as information goes.

  10. While I’m reasonably sure the guy is a dirtbag and could probably use a good shooting, that does not mean officer McShittyshot can be his judge, jury and executioner.

    They might want to look into a firing squad for the officer and the “investigator” (As much as she could be called an investigator) although they may need to look outside the department for the shooters.

    • First off, sorry for the double post.

      Now then, Magoo, how many knuckleheads in prison and mental wards or on the street have threatened to shoot someone when they were clearly incapable of such? (I.E. otherwise restrained or obviously not possessing a firearm).

      I would postulate that it’s rather common and firing a semi-automatic rifle at these guys probably is not the right response.

      • All I’m saying is let’s make an effort to get the whole story. Isn’t the more complete version a little more interesting and a little more sensible?

  11. Pffffttttttt…………….Couldn’t hit an unarmed, handcuffed suspect, sitting in the back of a squad car, with a rifle? Are you kidding me? This cop should be suspended for incompetence based on his lack of marksmanship alone.

    Reminds me of an old (probably apocryphal) story from the French Foreign Legion – apparently there has historically been a lot of tension between the French-born officers and their primarily non-French enlisted men, and during the heat of battle an enlisted trooper took a pot shot at his Lieutenant.

    The LT’s response? He put the trooper on punishment detail – “for missing his target at a distance of less than 50 meters.”

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