STOCKTON, CA - Stockton police say the driver shot by officers Thursday morning following a pursuit matched the description of a person wanted for a carjacking at gunpoint Wednesday morning.
James Rivera, 16, was shot by police as the van began moving backwards toward officers.
The police pursuit began at 10:34 a.m. when officers with a regional auto theft task force in the area of Cody Drive and Comstock Way attempted a traffic stop on blue minivan and driver matching the descriptions reported in Wednesday's crime, said Stockton Police Department spokesman Pete Smith.
The driver failed to stop when directed to pull over and sped off with officers following, Smith said. The pursuit lasted about three minutes, ending when officers used what Smith called an intervention: using a patrol car to ram the pursued vehicle to force it to stop. The car crashed into the garage of a home near the intersection of Bancroft Way and Salters Avenue.
At that point, the minivan began to roll backward, either on its own or in reverse gear, Smith said. Fearing for their safety, Smith said officers opened fire on the rear window of the minivan. "The vehicle began to move back in the direction of the officers approaching the vehicle. At that point, we believe three officers fired their duty weapons into the vehicle, stopping the advance of that vehicle."
Rivera was apparently hit several times. Officers pulled him from the minivan and gave him first aid, Smith said. Paramedics arrived to take over and transported the driver to San Joaquin General Hospital where he died later, Smith said.
Eyewitnesses and neighbors say they are angry at what they believe was the use of excessive force by police. "M-16's...and whatever kind of gun they carry, they emptied it on that van. It really didn't have to happen," said Consuelo Rivera, the suspect's aunt.
Community activists were circulating petitions Thursday night, demanding independent oversight of what they consider to be excessive use of force by Stockton Police. "I was in the military. I was a former Marine. I had more accountability as a Marine in war than police officers serving in our civilian neighborhoods do, and that needs to change," said Motecuzoma Sanchez, with the SoJust Coalition, a group demanding more police oversight.
Smith said investigators did not find a gun at the crash scene. They were seeking a search warrant to check inside the minivan.
It wasn't clear if anyone was in the home when the minivan hit it.
The auto theft task force is comprised of officers from several San Joaquin County law enforcement agencies.