As Paradise Police Officer Patrick Feaster approached the smoking, overturned truck that he had been chasing in Northern California, a dazed Andrew Thomas started to climb out of the driver’s side window.
Thomas’s head and shoulders cleared the vehicle, and Feaster unholstered the pistol on his right hip.
Feaster took aim and fired one shot, hitting Thomas in the neck – and the injured man dropped back into truck’s cab.
Then, the officer radioed dispatchers.
“I’ve got an unresponsive female,” he said, according to dashboard-camera footage. “I’ve got a man in the car refusing to get out.”
It was the beginning of an 11-minute sequence of events that would cost Feaster his job and his freedom.
In the ensuing court case, prosecutors detailed aspects of the fatal shooting, the Chico Enterprise reported. But jurors also heard what Feaster didn’t do.
He didn’t tell the next officer on the scene or the responding paramedics that Thomas had been shot.
He didn’t radio dispatchers about the discharge of his service weapon.
And Feaster didn’t say anything when an injured Thomas told another officer that he’d been shot and that officer responded, “No, you haven’t.”
Instead, Feaster appears to search the ground for shell casings, according to the video.
Eleven minutes after he shot Thomas, Feaster told a commanding officer on scene that he had fired a shot, according to the newspaper.
On Friday, a judge sentenced Feaster to six months in jail, two months after a jury found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter and nearly a year after Thomas died of complications from the gunshot wound.
Feaster left the department in February.
Feaster faced a maximum of five years in prison in the killing, but Butte County Superior Court Judge James F. Reilley noted the officer’s remorse and the bizarre circumstances of the shooting, the Enterprise reported. Prosecutors had sought four years, according to the Chico Enterprise.
Just before midnight on Nov. 25, 2015, Thomas had left a local bar with his wife in Paradise, a town of 26,000 people, 90 miles north of Sacramento. Thomas’ truck sped out of the parking lot without the headlights turned on, according to Sacramento CBS-affiliate KHTK.
On duty that night, Feaster got behind him with his lights flashing and his patrol cruiser’s dashboard camera recording.
The truck veered into the opposing traffic lane, struck a median and flipped onto its side. The force of the crash ejected Thomas’ wife. She died a short time later.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey initially declined to press charges against the officer. Three weeks after the shooting, Ramsey told reporters that prosecutors couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Feaster intended to fire his weapon.
But amid the outrage and protests that followed, the district attorney brought the involuntary manslaughter charges.
Thomas’ shooting happened as police in the United States are under increased scrutiny for using lethal force. Thomas was one of 991 people fatally shot by officers in 2015, according to a Washington Post database of the killings. So far in 2016, 896 people have been fatally shot by officers. In this case, both the officer and the person who was shot are white.
After Feaster was found guilty in October, Ramsey told ABC-affiliate KRCR that the verdict showed officers can’t kill with impunity.
“It’s also validation of the standard that we should have in our county, as well as the nation that such shooting is (something) … someone will be held accountable for and Mr. Feaster was held accountable,” Ramsey said.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Cleve R. Wootson Jr.