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Sonoma County Sheriff releases video of shooting by deputy in Bodega Bay

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The San Francisco software engineer accused of attacking a security guard, stealing his truck and then using it to strike three people during a drug-fueled rampage in Bodega Bay was shot by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy within seconds of the deputy’s arrival, a new video made public by the Sheriff’s Office shows.

The video, the first of its kind issued by the Sheriff’s Office, provides the public with an unprecedented view of the actions taken by the deputy and the man he shot moments before and after the gunfire rang out.

It was made public under a new law intended to expand public access to videos of deadly shootings and other uses of force by police, a response to demands for greater transparency from law enforcement agencies following high-profile shootings across the state.

The 13-minute video includes maps of the area, footage from private surveillance cameras on nearby homes, and audio from public safety dispatchers — none of which are required by the new state law. It is narrated by Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick, who explains the chain of events leading up to the shooting.

“I think what the people will see when they watch the video is just how quickly (things) evolve and how oftentimes we are put in situations that are just terrible,” Essick said Wednesday during a meeting with The Press Democrat editorial board and a reporter.

The final portion of the video is compiled from footage from the body-worn camera of Deputy Jason Pasero, the four-year employee of the Sheriff’s Office who fired his weapon during the July 4 incident.

It shows Pasero driving to the beachfront neighborhood, where he stops and climbs out of his patrol car. A white truck, identified by authorities as the one stolen by Betai Koffi, 32, of San Francisco, is sitting at a standstill up the street. A CHP officer pulls his car in ahead of Pasero and the white truck begins moving toward the CHP vehicle.

“Stop ... Stop,” Pasero yells, extending his arms in front of him to fire his gun, obscuring the camera’s view of the shooting. The first gunshot, one of several, is heard 11 seconds after Pasero stepped out of his vehicle, the video shows.

Pasero reports “shots fired” over his radio, walks closer to the truck and fires three more shots seconds later, the video shows. The sound of what appears to be a car accelerating, or revving, is heard in the background.

The video ends with Pasero approaching the truck and pulling a bloodied Koffi from the front seat of the still-running vehicle. He calls for medical help and places handcuffs on Koffi, who is still breathing and resisting officers, Pasero says.

Warning: this video includes graphic images that may be triggering for some viewers.

The footage was released under AB 748, a new California law that went into effect July 1, three days before the Bodega Bay shooting. It requires law enforcement agencies to release body-worn camera video when officers fire their weapons, or when they use other force that results in death or great bodily injury, within 45 days of the incident.

Agencies can delay the release in cases when the disclosure would “substantially interfere with the investigation,” such as by endangering the safety of a witness or a confidential source, the law says.

Steve Gallenson, Koffi’s lawyer, said he was disturbed by how Pasero removed Koffi from the car after the shooting, saying the deputy “pulled him out ... and flopped him around in a way that I think lacked a lot of humanity.”

Koffi, who was staying in a neighborhood rental home with a group of friends for the holiday weekend, survived the shooting but suffered significant brain damage after being struck at least once in the head, according to Gallenson. Koffi had taken multiple doses of LSD throughout the day of the shooting, causing an adverse reaction that led him to harm the other guests and crash a car into the rental home’s garage, authorities said.

Gallenson questioned Pasero’s decision to fire three additional shots after the first volley of gunfire, noting how slow the truck was moving, roughly 10 mph in his estimation, when it struck the CHP vehicle.

He also pointed to the sheriff’s use-of-force policy, which encourages deputies to move out of the path of an approaching car instead of firing their weapons at the vehicle or occupants, he said. A deputy should only fire their weapons at a car or the driver when they believe there is no way to protect themselves or the public from being hurt by the vehicle, “or if deadly force other than the vehicle is directed at the deputy or others,” according to the policy.

“My take from it from the video itself ... it seemed like the officer was protected by cars in the way,” Gallenson said. “It doesn’t seem like (Pasero) is trying to take evasive action or anything like that.”

The video marks the first time the Sheriff’s Office has publicly released footage of a deputy discharging his weapon, Essick said. The office chose to include footage from home security cameras in the neighborhood, two dispatch audio clips, maps and slides with additional information to provide context about the day’s events. It was shared with the public on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page and disseminated on the alert-notification system Nixle.

“We feel that tells the totality of what we were responding to,” Essick said of the video. “It’s not just the 3 seconds of a deputy shooting a guy, it’s ‘Here is the big picture of what happened.’ ”

The video begins with audio from a CHP dispatcher notifying the Sheriff’s Office of a 911 call from one of Koffi’s friends, who said Koffi had consumed LSD, had been drinking and was punching people after crashing a car. In a follow-up call by a Sheriff’s Office dispatcher, the friend says he’s worried Koffi might hurt himself after running away from the Swan Drive home where the group had been staying.

Another portion of the video captures a confrontation between Koffi and a private security guard near another home on Swan Drive. Koffi sees the officer and curses at him before both move out of the frame. A woman tells Koffi he’s on private property, and the security guard appears to report that he has been assaulted and that Koffi pulled out a landscape lamp from the area. Both walk almost completely out of the frame again, but this time the guard lets out a scream and calls for help.

“Help, code 30,” the guard yells. “He’s taking off in our patrol vehicle.”

A map depicts the route of the stolen truck as it moves from the southeast end of Pelican Loop, illustrating how Koffi used the vehicle to hit two sets of pedestrians on the beach-side street, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The moment is captured on another home security camera, with the white truck appearing to strike a pair walking on the road, causing one person to fall, and then hitting two others farther down the road. A man and two women, one who was seriously hurt, were injured, according to the office.

The final section of the video is taken from Pasero’s camera.

The county’s independent law enforcement auditor, Karlene Navarro, will automatically receive a copy of the Sheriff’s Office’s administrative review of the shooting, she said. She said she will comb through any available body-worn camera footage, interviews, police reports and other relevant information to determine whether Pasero followed office policy.

While she applauded the Sheriff’s Office for including more information than required by the new state law, she refrained from making an assessment of the deputy’s actions based on the video.

“I think it’s helpful to have context for what happened, but it’s coming from one perspective, so that’s something to keep in mind,” Navarro said.

Jim Duffy, a member of the Community Advisory Council, a civilian oversight group that works with Navarro’s office, also praised the Sheriff’s Office for creating the detailed video and releasing it promptly, more than a week ahead of the 45-day deadline imposed by the new state law.

“They put some resources into it before putting it out, but also added context,” Duffy said. “He could’ve just uploaded it online and said, ‘Here it is, we have to release this publicly. Done.’ ”

Pasero remained on paid administrative leave Thursday, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Spencer Crum said. The Santa Rosa Police Department is handling the use-of-force investigation and will forward its report to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office to determine if the shooting was justified.

Koffi, who faces 10 felony charges, including two counts of attempted murder, was released on his own recognizance July 26 and transferred to a medical rehabilitation center in the Bay Area, Gallenson said. It was unlikely Koffi, who remains paralyzed in his left arm and leg, will be able to attend his next hearing on Aug. 14, according to Gallenson.

“He’s not going to be in a condition to be able to appear in court for a while, that’s my guess,” Gallenson said.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

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