Three Cheers for Arizona PD’s 'Front-Bumper Takedown' of Crime Spree Suspect

Sometimes you have to improvise.  Every police department has its codified rules and procedures.  The Los Angeles Police Department’s manual, for example, contains hundreds of pages broken down into six volumes, and every year it grows larger with the addition of “special orders.”  Added to this are hundreds of additional pages of training bulletins, divisional orders, bureau directives, and heaven knows what else the office-bound bureaucrats at headquarters can commit to paper and inflict on police officers out in the field.

But nowhere in all those pages of jargon and esoterica can be found the precise instructions on what to do when some lunatic is walking down the street firing a rifle into the air.  And while I’m not familiar with the policies and procedures of the Marana, Ariz. Police Department, my guess is that the question is not specifically addressed there, either.

Which brings us to the recent “front-bumper takedown” employed to great effect by Officer Michael Rapiejko.  Video of the Feb. 19 incident was just released, revealing how the tactic of running down and armed man with a police car, though unorthodox, was entirely justifiable and indeed preferable to other types of force that might have been considered.

Police say Mario Valencia had gone on a crime spree across Tucson that morning, one that included a robbery, an arson at a church, and the theft of a car.  Valencia allegedly made his way to the Walmart in Marana, a town of about 35,000 people adjacent to the northern part of Tucson.  It was at the Walmart that he is said to have stolen a .30-30 caliber rifle and ammunition before fleeing on foot.  He was walking on a nearby street when he was spotted by an officer.

This first officer’s dash-cam video was also made available, and in it we can see his perspective as he drives up on Valencia, who turns to face him and puts the barrel of the gun to his own chin.  “Stop,” Valencia shouts, “or I’ll f***ing do it,” an apparent threat to commit suicide.  “You don’t want to do this,” the officer answers as Valencia turns and resumes on his path.

The officer broadcasts his location and a description of Valencia, then instructs other officers on which way to respond.  “Put the gun down!” the officer shouts as Valencia, having turned a corner, is now out of the camera’s view.  As the police car makes the turn, we see Valencia continuing down the street, at which time a passerby tells the officer that the gun “has a lock on it.”  “Are you sure?” asks the officer as Valencia turns to face him, now holding the rifle in a more threatening manner.  A few seconds pass before Valencia points the rifle skyward and fires a single round.  “Okay,” says the passerby, “never mind.”  Never mind, indeed.

Valencia continues, stepping into the street to walk around a parked motor home.  When another police car comes into view at the end of the block, making the turn from the frontage road next to the Interstate 10, the officer warns his colleague that he has entered the kill zone.  “Stand off, stand off,” he says.  “The gun is loaded.”

Moments later, the car driven by Officer Rapiejko zooms past, driving around the first police car, into the oncoming lane and straight into Valencia, throwing him into the air before knocking down a cinderblock wall.  Valencia spent two days in a hospital before being booked into jail.  End of problem.