6 Police Officers Shoot Murder Suspect Caught on Camera
RICHMOND — Two months after six officers from Richmond and Oakland shot and killed a Vallejo man suspected of fatally injuring a woman, police from both departments released a video showing officers firing dozens of shots at the man, then moving in to rescue an officer who’d been hit by the suspect’s van.
The three-body camera video angles, released Tuesday evening, depict the tail end of a chaotic incident on April 16, in which 24-year-old old Juan Ayon-Barraza allegedly attacked Vallejo resident Tamisha Thomas, dumped her, mortally wounded, near Moraga, and led police on a chase before the officers shot and killed him.
The harrowing video shows a point-of-view angle from Richmond Ofc. Joe DeOrian, who fired several shots through the windshield and driver’s side window of his own patrol car as Ayon-Barraza passed by in a van. Richmond police Chief Bisa French said Ayon-Barraza raised a gun at DeOrian before DeOrian started shooting.
It is unknown if DeOrian struck Ayon-Barraza, but the van continued in a straight trajectory, heading for an Oakland patrol SUV. The van crashed into the SUV, running over an Oakland officer next to the vehicle, then rolled backward at a slow speed.
As the van lumbered toward the SUV, the five Oakland officers began to fire. The shots spanned several seconds as DeOrian continued in his patrol car, reloaded his service weapon, exited the car, then fired at least twice more at the van.
The officers then rushed in to assist the officer who was struck by Ayon-Barraza’s van. They appeared distressed as several pulled the officer into a patrol car, screaming, “Where were you shot? Where were you shot?”
The injured officer replied that he was run over, not shot. He suffered several broken bones and is expected to recover, French said.
The video release also includes body camera footage from an Oakland officer who was inside the SUV that was struck. He shot through the patrol car’s windshield at the white van as it approached. This footage and DeOrian’s footage are the only two released videos from officers who fired their weapons.
The Oakland officers who shot at the suspect were identified as 14-year veteran Ofc. Michael Finnicum; 12-year veteran Ofc. Benjamin Sarno; 5-year veteran Ofc. Kyle Gaskin; 5-year veteran Ofc. Robert Recendez; and 3-year veteran Ofc. Matthew Hohn.
At the time of his arrest, Ayon-Barraza had an active arrest warrant for failing to complete a class as part of a domestic violence sentence. That stemmed from a case where he was alleged to have held a knife to a San Pablo woman’s throat and sexually assaulted her in front of a child. The case resulted in a plea deal and a jail sentence.
Police have not disclosed a possible motive from Ayon-Barraza nor his connection to Thomas. He reportedly mocked her family after attacking her, then disappeared for several hours until he turned up in the East Bay hills, near Moraga, with her body wrapped in a rug or blanket, according to police.
Thomas remained at a hospital, on life support, for several weeks before she died.
It is unknown whether the other four officers who fired — some of whom shot point-blank into the van — activated their body cameras. No footage of the shooting from those officers has been released thus far.
Because of SB 1421, a new state law that took effect last year, police departments are required — with some exceptions — to release body camera footage of use-of-force incidents.
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