Watch CBSN Live

Is ramming an armed suspect with a police car right?

There are new questions about why an Arizona police officer used his squad car to take down a gunman
There are new questions about why an Arizona ... 02:42

There are new questions about why a police officer used his squad car to take down a gunman in Arizona, reports CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano.

Warning: This video is graphic 03:01

Dash cam video shows the officer slamming his cruiser into the suspect. It happened in February. The Marana Police Department released the video yesterday.

Police say Mario Valencia stole a rifle and ammunition from WalMart. They considered him a threat to the neighborhood.

Valencia's attorney, Michelle Cohen-Metzger, says her client was "in crisis" on February 19th.

He was armed, and holding a gun to his own head, when encountered by Marana police -- who estimate the squad car that hit Valencia was going about 40 miles per hour on impact.

Dashcam video shows Mario Valencia holding a shotgun to his head moments before the car ramming incident Police, Marana, Arizona

The violent crash sent cinderblocks and the suspect flying over the hood of the police cruiser.

Valencia, 36, was taken to University of Arizona Medical Center in serious condition -- treated for blunt-force trauma.

Mario Valencia KOLD

Two days later he was transferred to Pima County Jail.

"Quite honestly, it's miraculous that my client didn't die. He hit him full speed ahead," said Cohen-Metzger.

Valencia faces several felony charges from that February day, including armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and arson.

Police say Valencia stole the gun and ammunition from a WalMart less than a mile away from the ramming incident. He threatened suicide when confronted by police.

Marana, Ariz., police officer Michael Rapiejko Police, Marana, Arizona

Two police cars followed Valencia as he walked near an industrial park. Officer Michael Rapiejko then careened around another police car and hit Valencia.

Marana Police chief Terry Rozema said Tuesday the officer's move likely saved lives.

"That's not an easy decision right there," Rozema said. "That's a tough, tough, tough decision. but he made it."

The Pima County Attorney's Office cleared Officer Rapiejko of any criminal charges.

But Valencia's attorney says the police were out of line.

"I've also heard them say that they saved his life and I find that to be a very strange statement -- to then use the deadly force to almost kill them by plowing them into with your vehicle," Cohen-Metzger said.

Marana police say they treated this case in the same way as an officer-involved shooting.

Officer Rapiejko was unhurt and placed on paid administrative leave for three days. He's back at work -- and the department is now conducting an internal review.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.