Usually when you see police slamming their cruisers into a suspect at high speed, it's because they're trying to end a dangerous car chase. Not so in the town of Marana, outside of Tucson, Arizona, where one officer took it upon himself to end an armed standoff by running over the gunman with his police car.
Mario Valencia, a 36-year-old man who had just stolen a .30-30 rifle and ammunition from a local Wal-Mart, was walking through a business park carrying the firearm when officers demanded that he drop the weapon. According to CNN, police insisted that Valencia had pointed the gun at his own head, had already fired one round into the air and was nearing a Coca-Cola bottling plant and other businesses where employees were working.
What happened next, depicted in the following video, is brutal: Officer Michael Rapiejko drives his car at high speed into Valencia from behind, sending the man flying, and crashing his car into a wall, shattering his windshield.
Tucson News Now reported that Valencia is accused of also setting a church on fire, stealing a car from a local home and robbing a store the same day. Marana police Chief Terry Rozema claimed Rapiejko's actions may have saved lives, while others questioned the wisdom of resorting to hitting Valencia with a ton of steel.
Rozema told Tucson News Now that while the decision was a difficult one, it ultimately saved lives and led to Valencia's arrest:
Police experts consulted by CNN reached different conclusions. Former New York Police Department detective Harry Houck said that the risk of the suspect coming dangerously close to civilians working at the Coca-Cola plant or of a gunfight starting with officers was too high to ignore.
"What if that [suspect] walks into somebody, maybe taking a potential hostage, maybe just shooting somebody?" he told CNN's Anderson Cooper 360. "I'm 100% behind this officer."
Former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino, on the other hand, told the network that "I have to question this tactic a bit. I think setting up a secure perimeter and at least making some attempt to negotiate may have been far more efficient."
The Twitter-using public responded with a mix of indignation and praise for the officer, disagreeing on whether the use of force was necessary.
According to ABC, Valencia's public defender, Michelle Cohen Metzger, released a statement alleging that Rapiejko's decision to run over Valencia was an "obvious excessive use of force."
"It's a miracle that he's not dead," Metzger said in the statement. "I'm hoping that the state takes into account my client's mental state at the time, as he intended to hurt no one."