A speeding car rolls over in the darkness ahead. Office Patrick Feaster of the Paradise Police Department has been chasing it on suspicion of drunken driving. Within seconds he’s there.
And he shoots.
“I’ve got an unresponsive female … I’ve got a male refusing to get out,” he says into his police radio after Andrew Thomas, the man Feaster shot, drops back into the car.
Feaster will wait 11 minutes before he tells any of the other responding officers, including his supervisor, that he fired his weapon.
This incident happened Thanksgiving morning. Not long after, demonstrators began calling for Feaster’s arrest and the recall of Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey, the man who refused to prosecute the Paradise police officer.
“I want to see him go to trial. Let it be trial by judge or trial by jury. Why can’t they decide if there’s something right or wrong?” said one protester Sunday, holding signs in the rain at the scene of the shooting.
Andrew Thomas has a long record of running from arrest. Police say his blood alcohol content was .15, nearly double the legal limit.
His girlfriend, Darien Ehorn, was in the car with him, but was thrown out. She died at the feet of Feaster as he looked for the shell casing from the shot he fired.
But Thomas, who was shot in the neck, doesn’t die. Not right away.
“The officers can call it accidental discharge. I’ve been calling it negligent discharge. That gun didn’t go off without the trigger being actuated,” said Ramsey in an interview last week.
Ramsey was explaining why he hadn’t sought charges against Officer Feaster.
He says he’s convinced the shooting was accidental, even negligent. But California law, he says, doesn’t make it a crime for a police officer to shoot someone by mistake.
Still, Ramsey said things would have been different if Thomas died.
“A different set of laws come in, if Mr. Thomas was killed. Thankfully he wasn’t. Now we’re talking the law of manslaughter, in which negligence is an issue,” District Attorney Ramsey said.
For nearly a month after the incident Thomas does cling to life, as doctors work on two shattered vertebrae in his neck where Feaster shot him.
But this weekend, he finally slipped away.
District Attorney Ramsey told FOX40 Sunday that he’s now exploring the possibility of a negligent manslaughter charge, but hasn’t filed one yet.