Police Sniper Hits Alleged Suspect–from Helicopter

Vehicle hit by police sniper (Richard Brooks:The Press-Enterprise via AP)
Richard Brooks:The Press-Enterprise via AP

On Friday, a carjacking suspect fleeing police died after he was shot by a police sniper from a San Bernardino County sheriff’s helicopter while going the wrong way on Interstate 215.

Deputy Deon Filer said the chase began at noon on Friday in Fontana, according to Action News Now. Nicholas Alan Johnson, 32, of Fontana, who was wanted for home invasion, raced his SUV as fast as 100 mph through streets before veering south in the northbound lanes on the I-215.

After the SUV was hit by gunfire on the freeway, Johnson jumped out of the SUV, which crashed into another SUV, injuring an adult male and female as well as a 13-year-old child. The adult male and the child were later released from the hospital; the female was still hospitalized and “recovering,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Johnson, who ran onto the freeway before collapsing, died at the scene.

Deputy Filer stated that he did not know whether Johnson died from the gunshots or from injuries suffered when leaping from his vehicle.

The Times quoted experts who pointed out that a suspect traveling at high speed in the wrong direction cannot be stopped using spike strips, and officers are banned permission from following the vehicle by car, leaving helicopter fire the only viable alternative. Ed Obayashi, a deputy sheriff for Inyo County, told the Times, “We are talking about a suspect who is traveling inside what is essentially a 3,000-pound lethal projectile–and the officers need to stop him…if the officer reasonably perceives an immediate threat to the public, that justifies reasonable force, including deadly force.”

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Olivia Bozek told local news station KTLA, “It’s a public safety issue once he starts going the wrong way. Obviously, he doesn’t care about passengers or pedestrians or other cars.”

Photo: Richard Brooks/The Press-Enterprise via AP; Los Angeles Times