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D.A.'s office finds Fountain Valley police shooting 'justified'

D.A.'s office finds Fountain Valley police shooting 'justified'
Police inspect a truck driven by a man who was shot by officers in Fountain Valley last year. (File Photo)

Three Fountain Valley sergeants who shot and wounded a 34-year-old man last year as he drove a pickup truck through the scene of a fatal crash will not face criminal charges, the Orange County district attorney’s office announced Thursday.

Investigators found “overwhelming evidence” that the actions by Sgts. Donald Farmer, James Cataline and Mike Parsons were “reasonable and justified” when they shot Matthew Earl Snoyman, according to a letter from the district attorney's office to Fountain Valley Police Chief Kevin Childe.

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Snoyman, who suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder, was charged with two counts of assault on an officer and one count of assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury — all felonies.

He was also charged with one count each of driving with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit and driving under the influence of alcohol, both misdemeanors, in connection with the Oct. 14, 2017, incident.

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The Westminster resident pleaded guilty to all charges on Wednesday and was immediately sentenced to a year in jail and five years of formal probation.

An Orange County Superior Court judge also suspended his license for two years and ordered him to complete an 18-month, multiple-offender alcohol program, according to court records.

Fountain Valley law enforcement had been investigating a fatal crash that occurred on Oct. 13 at the intersection of Magnolia and Mint avenues at the time of the shooting. Several streets were closed to traffic as police worked.

Farmer, Cataline, Parsons and several Fountain Valley officers told district attorney investigators that at about 5:16 a.m. they heard screeching tires and the sound of a vehicle accelerating.

That’s when they saw Snoyman, driving a black Dodge Dakota truck, swerve around traffic cones, according to the letter.

Snoyman drove south on Magnolia Avenue, crossed Edinger Avenue and passed the police roadblock before accelerating toward two parked patrol cars.

He swerved at the last second to avoid the vehicles, according to the letter.

Matthew Earl Snoyman, 34, pleaded guilty Wednesday to assault on a peace officer and driving under the influence.
Matthew Earl Snoyman, 34, pleaded guilty Wednesday to assault on a peace officer and driving under the influence. (File Photo)

Cataline told investigators he saw Snoyman speed toward him at about 60 mph and ran to avoid the truck.

Snoyman passed the officers and made an abrupt U-turn at Mint Avenue, the letter states.

Parsons walked to the center of the street and pointed his flashlight at the truck to get Snoyman’s attention before the vehicle suddenly accelerated toward him.

“Sergeant Parsons drew his weapon, pointed it at Snoyman and yelled, ‘stop, stop’,” the letter states. “When Snoyman was approximately 20 feet away, Sergeant Parsons, fearing for his life, fired one round into the driver’s side of the front windshield.”

The truck continued to barrel toward Parsons, who dove to the side and fired a second round into the front windshield.

“If I stayed where I was, I would have been killed,” Parsons told investigators, according to the letter.

Farmer fired five rounds at Snoyman. Cataline fired two rounds, which hit the windshield, and continued to fire 15 times because “Snoyman was not slowing and posed a continuing threat,” the letter states.

“Sergeant Cataline thought Snoyman recognized the crime scene and the presence of police officers and was intentionally trying to kill a police officer,” the letter states.

Snoyman continued to drive through the scene before officers pulled him over on Bushard Street.

Snoyman, whose blood-alcohol level was .23%, told officers he had two shots of alcohol at work the evening prior and had six beers before driving that morning, according to investigators.

“He said he did not remember seeing officers and did not know why he had been shot,” the letter states.

He was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange for treatment and later arrested. The district attorney's office investigated the case, as is typical for officer-involved shootings.

“A jury analyzing these facts would justly conclude that it was reasonable for all three sergeants to believe that the lives of all present, particularly Sergeant Parsons, were in danger,” the letter states.

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