Trial begins in 2012 shootout with CHP officer in Paso Robles

The driver of this car and a CHP officer were taken to the hospital for treatment of gunshot wounds after a shootout Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012.
The driver of this car and a CHP officer were taken to the hospital for treatment of gunshot wounds after a shootout Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012.

A CHP officer’s good instincts almost got him killed, according to a prosecutor’s opening statement Wednesday. But after an intense, close-range gunfight, the officer — despite taking three bullets — was the last man standing.

“He was bleeding profusely,” Deputy District Attorney Eric Dobroth told jurors.

Dobroth offered his opening statement Wednesday during the trial of Clifford Scott, 23, of San Diego. Scott, who faces multiple charges, including attempted murder of a peace officer, has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Linden Mackaoui, opted to give his opening statement later in the trial.

According to Dobroth, Scott was in a Camaro riding through Paso Robles with two women on Oct. 27, 2012, when CHP Officer Michael Muell pulled the car over for speeding. At some point during questioning, Scott jumped from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat and sped off. Muell pursued, but another CHP officer, Adrian Ayala, was closer to the Camaro.

Reaching speeds of 85 mph, the Camaro made its way from Highway 101 to Spring Street and then 13th Street, where it crashed into a magnolia tree.

“The vehicle is badly damaged,” Dobroth said. “The defendant gets out of the vehicle and flees on foot.”

While Ayala, 31, went after the suspect, Dobroth said, Scott managed to evade police. At that point, Ayala initially decided to drive back to the scene of the crash. But as he approached an alley near the Village Thrift store, he had an intuition.

“He thought to himself, ‘This would be a good place for someone to hide,’ ” Dobroth said.

Ayala parked his car in front of a dumpster. Soon after he exited the vehicle, he heard a noise from inside the dumpster. When he ordered the person out, a voice responded, “I’m coming up,” according to Dobroth. But when the speaker rose from the dumpster, he was holding a 40-caliber semi-automatic handgun. “And rounds start coming.” 

Ayala, holding a flashlight in one hand and a Taser in the other, tried to hit the shooter with his Taser, but it didn’t work, according to police reports. Standing just 15 feet from the dumpster, Ayala ran a short distance away, then grabbed his pistol and returned fire. During the shootout, Ayala had to reload, giving Scott a chance to flee, Dobroth said. Yet even as Ayala pursued him, Scott fired back.

Eventually, Dobroth said, Ayala took a breath, steadied himself and fired one last shot, causing Scott to fall to the ground.

Ayala ran up to Scott but wasn’t able to handcuff him because of his injuries. One bullet, which was deflected off the flashlight, nearly blew off the tip of Ayala’s thumb, Dobroth said.

The other struck his bullet-proof vest.

“The evidence will show that that round hit him so hard it actually split the undershirt beneath the vest,” Dobroth said.

Scott, meanwhile, suffered numerous gunshot wounds, according to police reports, including one to his liver.

While Scott attended initial court hearings in a wheelchair, on Wednesday he sat in a chair at the defense table.

The District Attorney’s Office alleges that Scott was a gang member who was carrying cocaine at the time of the incident.

Ayala is expected to testify today. He had been a CHP officer for six years at the time of the incident.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune