CHP officer deflected bullet with flashlight in shootout, expert testifies

Specialist says officer deflected a bullet with a flashlight in Paso

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comJanuary 3, 2013 

A CHP officer involved in a frenzied Paso Robles shootout in October deflected one of the suspect’s bullets with his flashlight, a forensic specialist testified Thursday.

Meanwhile, the District Attorney’s Office has amended its initial charges against Clifford Scott to include a gang-related allegation.

Scott, 22, of San Diego appeared in court for a preliminary hearing, charged with several offenses, including premeditated attempted murder. According to Patrick Zuchelli, a detective with the Sheriff’s Office, the following occurred in the early morning of Oct. 28:

CHP officers attempted to stop a speeding Camaro in which Scott was a passenger. As a patrolman questioned the driver of the car, Scott jumped in the driver’s seat and sped off, leading CHP officers on a chase. Later, CHP Officer Adrian Ayala pursued Scott on foot. When he later found Scott in a dumpster, Scott sprang up and began firing.

Ayala shot a Taser at Scott, but it didn’t work. As Scott fired on him, Ayala briefly ran away, then grabbed his pistol and began returning fire. After one magazine emptied, he reloaded. Initially, he began to run after Scott, who was still firing his gun after he began to flee the opposite direction.

Then Ayala stopped and steadied himself.

“He decided to take a well-aimed shot toward the center mass of the suspect,” Zuchelli testified.    

Hit in the back, Zuchelli added, Scott fell to the ground and said, “OK, that’s it.”

When Jeanine West, a forensic specialist for the Sheriff’s Office, examined the crime scene, she found a bullet lodged in Ayala’s vest, and she noticed his flashlight had been dented by a bullet.

Ayala had been holding a flashlight in one hand and a gun in the other.

Ayala suffered gunshot wounds to his right forearm and left thumb.

It was the second time in 15 years that a local CHP officer had deflected a bullet with a flashlight during a shootout. In June 1999, Brian Chatham was performing a traffic stop in Oceano when 19-year-old Angel Lopez pulled out a .22-caliber pistol and fired at Chatham’s face. Chatham shielded himself with his flashlight, which deflected the bullet.

Lopez later received a life prison term.

As it did with Lopez, the District Attorney’s Office is alleging that Scott was a gang member. When his preliminary hearing continues today, a police officer from San Diego is expected to testify on Scott’s alleged gang involvement there to support a charge that he illegally possessed a firearm as an active gang member.

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