More details about the moments leading up to an officer-involved shooting in San Mateo that left two suspected burglars wounded were revealed Friday when the San Mateo Police Department released video footage from the Sept. 28 high-speed pursuit ending with a shooting at a cul-de-sac at the end of East Hillsdale Court.
From the vantage point of the body-worn cameras of two San Mateo police officers as well as a home security camera, it is possible to watch a rented white Chevrolet Malibu operated by the suspects drive toward an oncoming police vehicle, reverse toward an officer on foot and come to a stop after the officer fired several rounds at the car during the incident 5:19 p.m. Sept. 28.
Information from an ongoing investigation by the San Mateo Police Department into the series of theft-related crimes 30-year-old Rickita James, of Newark, Delaware, and 27-year-old Taleah Johnson, of Philadelphia, are believed to have undertaken in the days leading up to the incident were also released by police Friday. According to the release, James and Johnson were transported to the hospital, treated for gunshot wounds and arrested following the shooting.
Per San Mateo County protocol for officer-involved critical incidents, the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office has been investigating the use of force in the incident, San Mateo detectives are investigating the actions James and Johnson took leading up to the incident and the Police Department is conducting an administrative investigation to ensure the officers’ actions aligned with the department’s policy, according to the release.
“When we have a critical incident in the community, we want to share with as much information as possible as soon as the investigation allows,” said San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer in the video.
In keeping with protocol for critical incidents involving officers, the officer involved in the shooting was placed on administrative leave and is expected to remain there while the District Attorney’s Office conducts its investigation, which Chief Deputy District Attorney Al Serrato said could take two to three months to complete.
Based on their investigation, police detectives believe James and Johnson flew to Los Angeles from Philadelphia Sept. 26 and drove to Northern California in a rented white Chevrolet Malibu after stealing a license plate registered to a Honda in Anaheim, according to the release.
In the two days leading up to the incident, James and Johnson are believed to have carried out a series of theft-related crimes in at least 11 locations — including shopping malls and retail stores — in Southern California and the Bay Area. The pair is believed to have shoplifted in Daly City Sept. 27 before spending the night in Walnut Creek, where they allegedly stole a paper temporary license plate from another vehicle, according to the release.
On Sept. 28, James and Johnson are said to have carried out several thefts in San Jose and Palo Alto before arriving at the Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo in the afternoon. They have been seen on camera committing several thefts, where they allegedly stole a woman’s wallet and used her credit card to purchase gift cards at Macy’s, according to the release.
An officer patrolling the Hillsdale Shopping Center that afternoon spotted the Chevrolet Malibu James and Johnson had been driving illegally parked in a handicapped stall without a placard. The engine of the car was allegedly running, but no one was inside the vehicle and the car’s vehicle identification number was covered. The officer determined through dispatchers the license plate belonged to a Honda in Anaheim, and requested backup to help with the investigation just before James and Johnson returned to the vehicle, according to the release.
Officers attempted to execute a traffic stop with the vehicle as it exited the shopping center, but James and Johnson didn’t stop the car and instead led officers on a high-speed pursuit in both directions on El Camino Real and onto East Hillsdale Boulevard. During the pursuit, credit cards were allegedly thrown out of the car, according to the release.
After hitting a parked car on the 400 block of East Hillsdale Boulevard, the car continued onto East Hillsdale Court and entered the cul-de-sac at 5:19 p.m. with officers closely following. Cornered in the cul-de-sac by one police vehicle, the car reversed and attempted to drive out and toward another police vehicle. It then reversed toward an officer on foot, who discharged his weapon several times, striking both James and Johnson, according to the release and video.
Officers called for paramedics and rendered medical aid until staff from the San Mateo Consolidated Fire Department personnel arrived and took over medical care, according to the release.
Serrato said the District Attorney’s Office has investigated three other officer-involved shootings this year. District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe in March cleared officers involved with the shooting of a Redwood City man who moved toward officers with a knife while experiencing a mental health crisis Dec. 10, 2018. Wagstaffe found the use of force employed by a parole officer who in April shot at one of the parolees he was supervising during an altercation to be lawful in July. In the same month, Wagstaffe also cleared the four police officers who fired 32 rounds at three men, who sustained minor injuries, as they fled the scene of a South San Francisco construction site with stolen tools in April.
The District Attorney’s Office will defer considering filing charges against James and Johnson until its investigation into the officer-involved critical incident is complete, according to the release.
Visit vimeo.com/370376366/a101f9e073 to view the video of the Sept. 28 incident.
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