Bodycam shows shootout that made Calif. officer an amputee

Officer Michael Rokaitis spent 12 days in the ICU after a search turned violent


By Lydia Gerike
The Modesto Bee

MODESTO, Calif. — The Modesto Police Department on Friday released video footage of the night last month that Officer Michael "Mikey" Rokaitis was shot while serving a search warrant at a home.

The 21-minute video includes the shooting, a bloodied Rokaitis being pulled from a room and the frantic minutes that ensued inside the home on East Orangeburg Avenue.

Police Chief Brandon Gillespie said in the video that Rokaitis has undergone seven surgeries since the shooting, including one to have part of his right leg amputated. He spent 12 days in the ICU but is now in stable condition.

The video of the Aug. 14 incident opened from inside a police car with an officer attempting to pull over a motorcyclist, later identified as 34-year-old Joshua Harrington of Modesto, who was driving recklessly, Gillespie said.

When Harrington fled the traffic stop, the Stanislaus County Sheriff's helicopter then followed him to the home just east of Lakewood Avenue.

Footage from Officer Brent Ward's body camera shows officers detaining two men upon arriving to the house. Gillespie identified one as Harrington, who the chief said had drugs on him.

Officers obtained a warrant to search the house for more contraband within about an hour after searching Harrington, a video caption said.

From body camera footage taken in his patrol car, Rokaitis announced over a PA that officers would be coming to search the house and that anyone inside should surrender peacefully before the search began and they were arrested.

 

Officers detained three more people, including 28-year-old Katie Bible, 44-year-old Rolland Christian and 29-year-old Harley Pryschuk.

Police then cleared most of the house before going to enter a final bedroom, a caption reads.

Footage from Ward and officer Jessica Davies' body cameras shows Rokaitis standing in an adjacent doorway to the bedroom. Rokaitis opens the door and then moves to enter, with officers Gaganpreet Billing and Davies moving behind him.

A series of gunshots can be heard in the video, and then Rokaitis drops to the ground. Officers returned fire, and Davies and Billing pulled a bleeding Rokaitis out of the room.

"I got you, buddy," Davies repeats to Rokaitis.

MPD has previously said Rokaitis was shot twice, once in his ballistic vest and a second time below his vest in his lower abdomen, which injured an artery to his right leg.

The shooter, later identified as 42-year-old Jesse Collins James Brooks, was held at gunpoint in the back of the bedroom with multiple gunshots visible on his arms and upper body. He was eventually handcuffed and removed.

Rokaitis was taken to the hospital in a patrol car, according to the video.

Charges and administrative leave

MPD and the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office are conducting investigations into the shooting, Gillespie said.

Five officers who fired weapons at the scene, including Rokaitis, have been placed on paid administrative leave per department policy.

Billing, Davies, Ward and Tyler Eppler are the other four officers.

The department said Billings, Davies, Ward and Rokaitis are members of the street gang unit, and Eppler is a patrol officer.

Additionally, six people have been arrested and charged in connection with the shooting, MPD said the release that went with the video.

Brooks is charged with three counts of attempted murder on a peace officer, multiple weapon violations and an outstanding warrant for violating probation. In addition to Rokaitis, the attempted murder charges cover Billing and Davies, although neither was shot.

Pryschuk was also charged with attempted murder of Rokaitis, accessory and possession of drug paraphernalia. Police still have not said why she is the only other person facing any attempted murder charge.

Harrington, of Modesto, was arrested and charged with evading a peace officer, possession of a controlled substance for sale, and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm.

Christian, of Atwater, was charged with obstruction and had additional warrants for burglary and vandalism out of San Joaquin County.

Bible, of Modesto, was charged with accessory and violation of felony probation. She also had numerous warrants out of El Dorado.

Ryan Bailey, 40, of Modesto, who was the other person detained at the same time as Harrington, was charged with being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm.

(c)2021 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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