TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Dramatic dash-cam video released Tuesday shows a police officer in a Tucson suburb using his cruiser to ram an armed suspect, sending him flying in the air before the car smashes into a wall.
The man survived the Feb. 19 crash, and prosecutors cleared the officer of any wrongdoing.
The video, now getting attention across the U.S., comes at a time of heightened tension over the use of force by police across the country.
The man who was hit, Mario Valencia, 36, faces several felony charges, including assault on a police officer. His attorney, Michelle Cohen-Metzger, has not responded to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
Marana police Sgt. Chris Warren said Valencia robbed a convenience store in Tucson, broke into a church, invaded a home and stole a car. Valencia drove the stolen car to Marana, just north of Tucson, where he stole a rifle from a Wal-Mart.
Video from two different police cruisers shows Valencia walking down a busy business corridor with a rifle in his hands. At one point, Valencia points the rifle at himself and threatens to kill himself.
One of the dash cam videos shows an officer slowly driving behind Valencia as he shoots the rifle in the air. That officer tells others to stay back because the suspect is armed.
But within seconds, a different officer drives his patrol car at high speed and rams into Valencia, sending him flying into the air. Officers with guns drawn quickly swarm the scene.
The officer has been identified as Michael Rapiejko. Warren said Rapiejko was put on a standard administrative leave because the incident was considered use of force. The Pima County Attorney’s Office cleared Rapiejko of any wrongdoing and he is back on the force, Warren said.