|Geann Pineda |||Apr 15, 2015 07:09 AM EDT|
Police' alleged use of excessive force continues to be a hot issue, with another dash-cam video going viral. The video showed an officer in Tucson, Arizona driving a police vehicle and intentionally rammed it into an armed suspect, tossing him into the air.
The armed man, identified as 36-year-old Mario Valencia, survived the crash. The Marana Police officer, Michael Rapiejko, was placed on administrative leave but was later cleared of any wrongdoing.
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The Arizona police defended the officer's action saying the use of the deadly force was warranted as the suspect was headed to a crowded area, with the possibility of hurting more people.
"If we're going to choose between maybe we'll let him go a little bit farther and see what happens, or we're going to take him out now and eliminate any opportunity he has to hurt somebody, you're going to err on the side of, in favor of the innocent people," Police Chief Terry Rozema said.
The incident happened on Feb. 19, when two different police cruisers were pursuing Valencia.
Marana Police Sgt. Chris Warren said Valencia was a target of a manhunt after robbing a convenience store in Tucson, raiding a church and a home. He also stole a car to get to Marana. There, he seized a rifle from Wal-Mart.
A video from one police vehicle showed an officer slowly tailing behind Valencia, who was seen shooting the rifle in the air. The officer can be heard warning others to stay back, as the man was armed and dangerous.
Seconds later, another police vehicle driven by Rapiejko was seen running at high speed, overtaking the first police cruiser, and rams into Valencia before crashing into a wall.
Marana Police earlier said Rapiejko actions were considered use of excessive force, prompting the force to suspend him. The Pima County Attorney's Office launched a probe into the incident and cleared the officer of any violation. Rapeijko is now back in service.
However, Valencia's lawyer, Michelle Cohen-Metzger, criticized the decision saying it was an obvious show of police brutality.
"Everything in the video seems to point towards an obvious excessive use of force. It is miraculous that my client isn't dead," Cohen-Metzfer said.
Just this week a reserve deputy from Tulsa, Oklahoma was charged with manslaughter for the death of a man accused of selling loose firearms. The officer shot the suspect after mistaking his handgun for a Taser.
Other controversial cases of police accused of using excessive force on suspects include the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Walter Scott in South Carolina.
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