Donald A. Promnitz/The Madera Tribune
Bullets from a fleeing car struck this Madera police car’s windshield and exited through the back window, missing the police officer and his passenger.
Madera Police are still searching for the suspects who shot at an officer and a civilian ride-along during what was expected to be a routine traffic stop Sunday morning.
According to Madera Police Det. Sgt. Johnnie Smith, Officer Julian Garcia tried to pull over a white Mazda SUV in the 100 block of Mainberry Drive at 4:34 a.m., after it reportedly was involved in a traffic violation. The driver of the Mazda, however, refused to pull over.
“The vehicle fled north, and the officer, seeing that the vehicle was failing to yield to his lights, initiated a pursuit (with) lights and sirens,” Smith said. “The vehicle continued to blow through stop signs, and ended up north of Sunset Avenue.”
It was at this point that the suspect in the front passenger’s seat reportedly opened fire. The female ride-along can be heard in the audio of the dash cam saying: “He has a gun, oh no!” as the incident is taking place, while Garcia informs dispatch that shots have been fired.
As the Mazda turned onto Lighthouse Drive, the gunman fired approximately nine more shots at Garcia’s patrol car. The dash cam footage from the incident shows the muzzle flash from the weapon as it is being fired.
Garcia continued to pursue the suspects, and four more shots were fired from the Mazda, three of which struck the patrol car. Of the three rounds that struck the car, two of them hit the windshield, with one going high and getting lodged into the top of the car, while the other passed through and shattered the rear window. A third round punctured one of the patrol car’s tires, disabling the vehicle.
Garcia was uninjured, while the civilian ride-along suffered minor scratches from the broken glass.
“She was fine,” Smith said. “Emotionally distraught, but otherwise, physically fine.”
Police later located the Mazda on Krest Street, a few blocks from where Garcia last saw the vehicle. Police have also reportedly found an AR-15-style pistol. According to Smith, the weapon fired rifle rounds, but because the gun had no stock, it can -not technically be classified as a rifle.
“We’re working leads, right now,” said Smith. “And we have a lot of good evidence.”
Smith also credited Garcia with his handling of the situation, which was made more complicated by the fact that there was a civilian in the patrol car with him. Garcia only recently finished his field training, starting patrols on his own.
“I think he performed extremely well in those circumstances, under fire,” Smith said. A lot of officers go through their entire careers without ever having anybody shoot at them, and here we have... a fairly new officer that performed extremely well under pressure in a dangerous situation, and I believe his training that he received served him well in this situation.”
“We are thankful and blessed that both the officer and civilian were not injured. The officer’s decisive actions prevented the civilian ride-along from being seriously injured,” said Madera Police Lt. Gino Chiaramonte. “The officer demonstrated a very cool demeanor for such a short time with the department.”
According to Madera Police, ride-alongs with Madera police have been temporarily suspended.
Those with information on the Mazda and its occupants are advised to contact Det. Sgt. Johnny Smith, 675-4291.