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Deputy Wounds Unarmed Suspected Car Thief

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A sheriff’s deputy shot and wounded an unarmed suspected car thief early Friday morning, authorities reported.

Matthew Gary Powell, 25, of Fallbrook was booked into County Jail at Vista on suspicion of possession of stolen property, vehicle theft and fleeing arrest, after he was treated at Fallbrook Hospital for a single gunshot wound to his right thigh, sheriff’s Lt. John Tenwolde said.

The Sheriff’s Department gave the following description of events:

Authorities received a call about 4:16 a.m. that a pickup had been stolen. Deputy James McClain was on patrol near West Lilac and South Mission roads in Fallbrook when he spotted a truck that matched the description.

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McClain saw the truck turn left onto Olive Hill Road against the light and followed it, notifying dispatchers that he intended to pull the driver over.

The truck stopped, but as McClain approached it took off again, west on Olive Hill Road. McClain got back in his vehicle and chased the truck on narrow, winding roads at speeds of up to 50 m.p.h. The truck slowed down as if to stop a couple of times.

Meanwhile, the deputy received confirmation that the truck was stolen.

Eventually, on a paved road that runs parallel to the 500 block of Morro Hills, the suspect stopped the truck and got out. McClain got out of his vehicle with his .357 Magnum revolver drawn and told the suspect to freeze.

At the same time, the deputy noticed the truck was coasting backward, so he moved out of the way.

Apparently in response to the deputy’s movement, the suspect turned abruptly toward the left, away from the truck and toward McClain. He also moved his right hand near his waistband, a spot the deputy could not see because of the way the suspect was standing. The suspect then apparently moved his hand forward in a way that made the deputy fear the man was holding a gun.

McClain fired five shots, hitting the man once in the right thigh. The suspect, who was unarmed, fell to the ground and was handcuffed.

The Sheriff’s Department is investigating the shooting. McClain, 41, a four-year veteran, will be placed on administrative leave, Deputy Robbie Hill said.

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Powell was the fourth person shot this year by deputies. Two of the shootings were fatal.


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