Just before midnight on Thanksgiving Eve, Officer Patrick Feaster was sitting in his patrol car when he saw a Toyota 4-Runner speed out of the Canteena Bar in Paradise, California. The driver, Andrew Nicholas Thomas, ran a red light and later careened onto the median, flipping his SUV and ejecting his wife, Darien Ehorn, from the passenger seat and onto the pavement. As Officer Feaster stopped behind the wreckage, he reported his location and stepped out of the car, walking towards Ehorn. As he saw Thomas begin to climb out of the driver’s side window, which was now facing upward, Officer Feaster drew his pistol, fire one (or two) shots, striking Thomas in the C7 and T1 vertebrae, paralyzing him from the neck down. Officer Feaster then holstered his weapon, walked over to the car, peered in to see Thomas slumped down with a critical wound, and began looking on the ground with his flashlight, ignoring the two critically wounded civilians.The officer then used his radio to dispatch that there was a male in the car “refusing to get out.”
According to the police commander, approximately eleven minutes passed between the shot(s) being fired and Officer Feaster telling anyone on the scene that Thomas may have been shot. It was only when the commander suggested someone go back to the bar where Thomas was to investigate if he’d been shot there, that Officer Feaster admitted he may have shot Thomas.
The Butte County District Attorney, Michael Ramsey, sent a letter to Paradise PD Chief Gabriela Tazzari-Dineen, explaining that the shooting was accidental and no criminal charges for Patrick Feaster are warranted. The main contention of the DA’s office is that Officer Feaster fired only one shot, straying from standard police procedure, and cannot be held criminally liable for this accidental shooting. Though the dash cam video appears to show two flashes from Officer Feaster’s gun, the report explains this as an “optical illusion” created by the flashlight mounted to the Glock .45. As Ramsey’s letter explains, “criminal negligence involves more than ordinary carelessness, inattention, or mistake in judgement.” When an officer 1) acts in a reckless way that creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury; and 2) when a reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create such a risk. The report characterized Officer Feaster’s actions as “possible negligent, but not criminally so.”
An email to DA Michael Ramsey asking if his office is claiming that not only was Officer Feaster’s shot accidental, but that the officer was also unaware that he had even fired a shot, seeing as allowing eleven minutes to pass before alerting medical personnel could possibly been viewed as criminal negligence. As of press time, this email has gone unanswered, as well as messages left for Mr. Ramsey at his office.
The shooting and subsequent report have incited a public outcry in Paradise. A rally held on Saturday involved around 150 protesters calling for the firing of DA Michael Ramsey and Officer Feaster. Residents expressed anger over what appears to be a cover-up and don’t accept the DAs narrative.
Ramsey responded to the public outcry on Monday in the form of a “Lay Report”, explaining that his report “was not, and never was, intended to pass judgment upon the tactics and judgment exercised by the officer that night.”
“Without being able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a conscious, intentional, willful pulling of the trigger, there are no criminal charges that can be filed under California law for the negligent discharge of a weapon resulting in injury, no matter how horrible, as long as there is not a death.”
An internal investigation into Officer Feaster’s actions is being conducted by the Paradise PD. Speaking by phone Monday afternoon, police chief Gabriela Tazzari-Dineen declined to comment on Officer Feaster’s future with the department, citing the active internal investigation. When asked about Patrick Feaster’s record with the department, Tazzari-Dineen could only say he had been with Paradise PD for five years and had received an award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) three consecutive years for the most DUI arrests.
Paradise Mayor Jodi Jones released a statement Monday evening expressing condolences to everyone involved and pleading for patience as the internal investigation is completed over the coming weeks. She also asked citizens to “avoid the urge to make a bad situation worse by succumbing to false information that is being rampantly shared on social media and other places.”
Statement (PDF): 121415 Media Release – Mayor Statement
Requests for comment to both Butte County DA Michael Ramsey and Paradise Town Manager Lisa Garner have thus far gone unanswered. I will update this story if either reach out.