Video: Bodycam footage released in police pursuit, fatal shooting of Calif. kidnapping suspect

Officers shot the suspect after he rammed his van into two patrol cars

Alejandro Serrano
San Francisco Chronicle

RICHMOND, Calif. — A man suspected of kidnapping and shooting a woman in April led police on a high-speed chase that ended with police fatally shooting him after he rammed his van into two patrol cars, according to video footage released Tuesday by Oakland and Richmond police.

The April 16 crash injured two Oakland officers, police said, leaving one with multiple broken bones and prompting several other officers to open fire and kill 24-year-old Juan Ayon-Barraza. He was suspected of kidnapping and shooting Tanisha Thomas of Vallejo hours earlier before dumping her in the Oakland Hills.

Body-worn camera footage shows an officer shooting through his cruiser's window to stop the suspect vehicle.
Body-worn camera footage shows an officer shooting through his cruiser's window to stop the suspect vehicle. (Photo/Screengrab of joint release video from Richmond Police Department/Oakland Police Department)

The family of the 29-year-old woman, who died about a month after she was shot, reported her missing hours before the shooting, according to the video featuring interim Richmond Police Chief Bisa French. The 16-minute video includes audio from 911 calls and footage from several body-worn cameras and a helicopter.

It was released “to allow the public to view the material in as clear and straightforward a manner as possible and without editorial comment,” French said. “We train to minimize the use of force and we take its use very seriously.”

Authorities said one Richmond police officer and “multiple” Oakland officers fired at Ayon-Barraza’s van after he made a U-turn and collided with a patrol vehicle before continuing on into another vehicle. The officers were identified only by their last names as Richmond police Officer Deorian, who radioed that the driver was waving a gun as he came to a stop, and Oakland officers Recendez and Hohn.

The events began to unfold the morning of April 16, when when Thomas’ family reported her missing and said she had last been seen with Ayon-Barraza.

Just before 7 p.m. that same day, a cyclist called 911 to report a man carrying a body wrapped in a blanket in the area of Pinehurst Road and Skyline Boulevard, according to audio of the call.

“I witnessed some people dumping a body and I think she’s still alive,” the man tells a dispatcher. “I think she is still breathing. I don’t know. She’s under a blanket. It’s like she’s bleeding.”

The man said that he saw a van pulling away from a scene.

Oakland and Moraga police responded to the scene along with Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputies, but van sped away.

Authorities found Thomas down a steep embankment off Pinehurst Road, “severely beaten” and suffering from a gunshot wound to the head, police said. She was taken to a hospital in critical condition. She died about a month after the incident.

A few miles away near Redwood Road, a Moraga police officer spotted a van matching the description given by the cyclist.

The driver led officers to Highway 13 and then drove westbound on Interstate 580 before exiting at Bayview Avenue, officials said. The chase reached speeds greater than 100 mph on the freeway.

Helicopter footage shows the driver slow down near S. 37th Street and Stege Avenue.

“I’m the closest one. He’s coming to a stop at Stege,” Deorian says. “He’s waving a gun in the front seat.”

But then, according to the helicopter footage, the driver makes a sudden U-turn and bee-lines to the front of a line of six patrol cars, sending two officers scrambling as they exit the closest car to the van. The crash left one officer wounded and crawling toward others for help.

Body-worn camera footage shows Deorian fire at least six rounds at the van through his own windshield and driver’s side window.

Shots can be heard from other officers for eight seconds as Deorian reloads and exits his car.

Officer Recendez fires at least 15 rounds through a deployed airbag. It’s unclear how many times Hohn fires his weapon before running to an injured officer and dragging him away from the van and into the back of a vehicle.

©2020 the San Francisco Chronicle

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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