On Tuesday it was noted the Paradise police officer Patrick Feaster, who shot an unarmed DUI suspect in November, is no longer employed at the Paradise Police Department.
By Wednesday morning, Feaster was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Feaster was arraigned in Judge James Reilley’s court at 8:30 a.m. after Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey decided to bring manslaughter charges against Feaster. The former officer was charged with a single felony count of involuntary manslaughter while armed. Feaster did not enter a plea.
The charges come two days after Paradise Police Chief Gabriela Tazzari-Dineen announced Feaster was no longer on the payroll. The chief said she couldn’t say whether Feaster was fired because of state law outlined by the “Police Officer’s Bill of Rights.”
When asked by a reporter whether Feaster quit or was fired, Ramsey said only that Feaster did not resign.
The California “Officers’ Bill of Rights” cites no protection from disclosing personnel information upon departure, citing only that cops under interrogation will not be subjected to being paraded in front of the media without the officer’s consent.
However, California public records law may still protect police officers’ personnel records from being released other than basic dates of hiring and firing.
But now that Feaster has been criminally charged, we can see why he is no longer working for the department, which ends a long career where he was renowned for cracking down on DUI suspects.
As many of us can see in the viral video, Feaster followed the suspected DUI driver who had left a local bar without his headlights on.
The driver, Andrew Thomas, struck the median, causing the vehicle to roll and ejecting the passenger, Thomas’ wife, who died at the scene.
Thomas was seen climbing from the wreckage of the vehicle, disoriented and dazed, with his hands visible.
As Feaster approached, he drew his service weapon and fired, striking Thomas in the neck and severing his spinal cord, causing him to fall back into the vehicle.
Feaster later stated he thought Thomas was going to run, which is why he drew his service weapon.
Under close examination of the video, you can see what looks like two muzzle flashes as he rocks back on the heels of his feet towards his right.
At first, Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said Feaster fired his weapon in a negligent manner but not in a “criminally negligent manner”, exonerating him in the shooting.
Ramsey’s basis for this argument is that officers are taught to draw their weapon and fire twice at a target, claiming Feaster only fired once, before holstering his gun and acting as if nothing had happened.
However, there is a discrepancy between what the video shows and what prosecutors claim.
The video shows what looks to be two shots, while prosecutors claim it is an optical illusion by the flashing lights.
Even then, the gun did not fire itself.
No shell casings were found but Feaster can be seen searching the ground as Thomas was communicating with other officers, perhaps searching for shell casings to remove them from the scene.
After the shooting, Feaster can be seen attempting to coax Thomas out of the vehicle, then claiming on the radio that he was refusing to come out of the vehicle.
Thomas is heard on the dash cam saying “you shot me”.
When Thomas told another officer that he could not move because he had been shot by the officer, that officer stated, “he didn’t shoot you.”
It was only after Thomas died from his injuries that prosecutors re-opened the case, looking into possible manslaughter charges, which hinge on the fact that Feaster failed to render aid to the victim.
And it was only when medics arrived several minutes later did they realize Thomas was shot and told the commanding officer about it.
Feaster also failed to radio into dispatch that shots were fired nor did he tell responding medics and officers that he shot the Thomas or discharged his weapon.
After 11 minutes had passed, the senior officer on scene told Feaster and other officers to go back to the bar to see if somebody may have shot him there.
And that was when Feaster finally admitted that he had fired his service weapon.
However, Feaster and other officers failed to provide aid to Thomas or his wife, who laid there taking her dying breaths as Feaster kept his mouth shut about the shooting.
UPDATE: According to Action News reporter Cecile Juliette, Feaster if facing up to five years in prison if convicted.
However, there was no separate charge for the fact that he waited 11 minutes to admit he shot Thomas because “California does not have a negligence of performance official duty criminal charge.”
“They say his failure to report the shot did not delay the medical response Thomas received. However, it did (partially) lead to Feaster’s termination from the Paradise Police force,” she reported on her Facebook page.
The autopsy shows Thomas died from septic shock stemming from the gunshot wound that severed his spine.
There is also a video of the arraignment on her page.