On Tape: Arizona Cop Plows Into Crime Spree Suspect

Give a voice to the voiceless!

Dashcam video released on Tuesday shows Tucson-area cop Michael Rapiejko driving into rifle-wielding crime spree suspect Mario Valencia in February. (fox6now.com photo)
Dashcam video released on Tuesday shows Tucson-area cop Michael Rapiejko driving into rifle-wielding crime spree suspect Mario Valencia in February. (fox6now.com photo)

Police in Arizona have released dashcam footage that show a patrol officer running over a suspect at the end of an alleged crime spree earlier this year.

Mario Valencia, 36, miraculously survived the incident in which he was struck by a Marana Police cruiser at a high rate of speed as he walked down a street in the Tucson suburb on Feb. 19.

Police say Valencia, who was seen in the video holding a high-powered rifle, was wanted in connection with the robbery of a convenience store, arson at a local church and a home invasion. He also stole a car, police said, which he drove to Wal-Mart where he later stole the rifle.

During the videotaped encounter with police, Valencia is seen walking down a suburban street with the rifle in hand. As an officer approaches, Valencia fires a warning shot into the air. Moments later, a different officer speeds up to Valencia in his patrol car, slamming into the man and sending him flying into the air.

The patrol car later impacted and shattered a stone wall. Officers swarmed the scene with their guns drawn, and Valencia was taken into custody.

The officer who struck Valencia, identified in media reports as Michael Rapiejko, was placed on administrative leave following the incident because the strike with the vehicle was considered use of force. Authorities later cleared Rapiejko of wrongdoing; the officer has since been placed back on duty.

The video surfaced at a time when use of force by police officers against civilians has become a point of discussion and a rallying call for reform, especially those cases that have been captured on tape. Recent incidents in Missouri, New York, Wisconsin and South Carolina have sparked civil demonstrations and protests, especially in cases involving white officers killing unarmed minority suspects.

But the use of force documented in the Tucson suburb has far more supporters than critics considering the suspect’s lengthy criminal allegations and the weapon on clear display in the tape.

“This could have turned deadly had that officer not risked his life to stop this thug,” said Facebook commenter Mikey Magestic. “Many thanks to him and the other officers for stopping it.”

“For all the senseless and unjustified police violence we have seen of late, this action seemed justified,” said another commenter named Rick Cooper. “This guys was armed, end of story. That’s the challenge. Good cops like this get overshadowed by the bad cops who kill simply because they can.”

Reaction was mixed in the Reddit community “Bad Cop, No Donut,” where the majority of stories and videos posted show police and other law enforcement officials at their worst. The dashcam video was one of the highest-ranked links as of Wednesday morning, earning more than 200 comments that offered a grab bag of criticism and praise.

“Very reckless,” said Reddit user JustGreg. “I’ve looked at the use of force chart, doesn’t say anything about slamming a moving vehicle into a crazy person.”

But others said the cop’s tactic was not “a big deal” and likely saved the lives of other officers.

“They managed to defuse the situation without using a sniper to shoot him in the head,” said user carandfreedomgeek. “I think the guy should be thankful. There weren’t many other ends to this scenario where he’s not dead.”

Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine

Give a voice to the voiceless!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Benjamin Wey: Hillary, Apple Watch and the Art of the Soft Launch

Record Store Day: Why You Should & Shouldn’t Support It