Airman Is Shot After Brief Chase
A San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy shot an Air Force security officer late Sunday night after the airman told the deputy that he was in the military and “on your side.” A videotape of the incident, which was shot on a residential Chino street about 10:30 p.m., was of poor quality, showing only a silhouette of the deputy and the face of the man who was shot -- illuminated by the deputy’s flashlight.
But the tape appears to show the deputy opening fire as the man was trying to comply with the officer’s apparent order to stand up.
Senior Airman Elio Carrion, 21, had been riding as a passenger in a Corvette that was involved in a brief, high-speed chase with the deputy that reached speeds of 100 mph before the Corvette crashed into a fence, authorities said.
The videotape, shot by Chino resident Jose Luis Valdes, shows Carrion sprawled on the ground and repeatedly telling the deputy, “I’m on your side.”
The deputy then seems to shout, “Get up!” after which Carrion appears to lean forward. “I’m going to get up, all right?” he says.
The deputy then fires his gun three or four times from about five feet away. “Shut ... up, you don’t get up ...!” he shouts.
Moaning in pain, Carrion responds: “You told me to get up.”
The deputy then radioed in to dispatch that shots had been fired.
It is unclear from the grainy tape whether there was anything in Carrion’s movements that provoked the deputy to fire his weapon.
The videotape begins with the deputy already conversing with Carrion, so it is unclear whether the lawman was acting on information he obtained before Valdes began taping.
Sheriff’s investigators took the original tape as evidence.
“Our homicide division is conducting a thorough investigation,” said Sheriff Gary Penrod. “The investigation will examine all of the evidence. Some of the evidence will include a video that was given to the Sheriff’s Department by a citizen.”
Penrod said the results of the investigation would be forwarded to the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office for review.
Penrod declined to provide any details of the incident, saying it would be “inappropriate” until the investigation was completed.
Carrion, who recently returned from Iraq, has not been charged with a crime, although the incident is under investigation, sheriff’s spokeswoman Robin Haynal said Monday evening.
He underwent surgery Monday at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton after being shot in the chest, leg and shoulder, according to his wife. By evening, he was listed in good condition.
A woman who lives near the site of the shooting on the 5500 block of Francis Avenue said she heard a loud screech when the Corvette smashed into the fence. Then she heard the deputy shouting orders at the people in the car, but did not see the shooting.
“I heard the deputy scream, ‘Get down ... ! You shouldn’t have made me chase you!’ ” according to the resident, who declined to be identified. “It seemed like the deputy was screaming ‘Get down ... !’ for about a minute and a half, and then I heard four gunshots, boom! boom! boom! boom! Even after the shooting, the deputy was still screaming.
“The cussing part sounds like a rage. I didn’t see anything, but the fact he kept screaming for them to get down sounded like they weren’t getting down.”
Carrion’s wife, Mariela, 19, said her husband told her that he did nothing wrong. She said that, after he came out of surgery Monday afternoon, he said: “They shot me for no reason.”
Mariela Carrion said she rushed to the scene just after the shooting and was shown a brief segment of the videotape before it was turned over to sheriff’s investigators. The tape showed that her husband had his hands raised and appeared to be surrendering, she said.
“I only saw a little of [the video] because I was hysterical, but I saw my husband’s hands go up in the air,” she said. “My husband would’ve gotten out of the car and cooperated with the officer.”
The driver of the Corvette, Luis Fernando Escobedo, 21, was arrested without injury, authorities said. Escobedo, described by Carrion’s wife as a “good friend” of her husband, was arrested on suspicion of felony evading and jailed at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.
Carrion, a former basketball player at Montclair High School, was due to report back to his unit, the 2nd Security Forces Squadron, at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, La., on Wednesday.
Carrion and Escobedo were headed to a store during a break in Carrion’s going-away party Sunday night at his parents’ home in Montclair, his wife said. There had been some drinking at the party, she said.
Escobedo allegedly led the deputy on a high-speed chase through residential streets in Chino, but sheriff’s officials did not say what led to the chase.
Air Force spokesman Lt. Frank Hartnett said Carrion worked as a security officer at the base, assigned to a unit that guards the base entrance. Carrion joined the Air Force in January 2003 and recently returned from a six-month tour in Iraq, Hartnett said.
Carrion has received Air Force ribbons for good conduct, training, national defense and fighting the global war on terrorism.
“We are waiting for the investigation to reach a finding,” Hartnett said. “The sheriff has a very important job to get the facts gathered.”
Sheriff’s officials said the shooting occurred when the deputy tried to take the occupants of the vehicle into custody after the crash. They declined to give any details about what prompted the veteran Chino Hills-based deputy to fire his gun, saying that that detail was “part of an ongoing investigation.”
The deputy, whose name was not released, has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Other residents in the Chino neighborhood said that, after the Corvette crashed, the deputy had his gun drawn and barked several orders at Carrion and Escobedo to get out of the car and get down.
Richard Durrington, 48, said he watched the exchange from windows on the south side of his home and heard part of the deputy’s discussion with Carrion and Escobedo before shots were fired.
Durrington said “the passenger” -- Carrion -- did most of the talking near the car, and told the deputy, “We’re on the same side, I’m with you.” Another person near the car was yelling, “He’s military! He’s military!” Durrington said.
“Then it got real quiet until you heard the pop,” he said.
Joanne Scholten, who lives across the street from the crash scene, said the deputy’s request for Escobedo to exit the car was complicated because the driver’s door of the Corvette was pinned against the fence.
The absence of streetlights made the street “pitch dark,” making it difficult to see, Scholten said. She said she heard the voice of at least one of the Corvette’s occupants, but couldn’t decipher what was said.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller said the man who videotaped the incident “voluntarily” handed it over to investigators at the scene early Monday.
As she awaited an update on her husband’s condition following his surgery, Mariela Carrion expressed her anger with Escobedo for allegedly speeding away from the deputy.
Escobedo was due in San Bernardino County Superior Court on Thursday for a hearing following his March 2005 arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol and four other citations, including operating an unsafe vehicle.
He served a year on probation and was fined $365 after pleading guilty to disturbing the peace following a speeding arrest in June 2003.
Carrion’s wife said that if her husband had been driving, this never would have happened.
“My husband would never do that,” Mariela Carrion said. “He drives like a turtle.”