Detectives investigating Modesto officer-involved fatal shooting

Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department detectives are investigating a shooting in which a suspect was killed by Modesto police.

The Saturday night incident is the eighth officer-involved shooting in Modesto since December 2009. Seven involved the Modesto Police Department, and the most recent one comes on the heels of the city hiring a lawyer to investigate anonymous claims that officers have used excessive force.

The most recent shooting started with calls to police dispatchers just after 11 p.m. The callers reported what appeared to be a burglary at Burnside Auto Body, 612 N. Franklin St., near Kansas Avenue. Witnesses saw a man and a woman — one with a hammer — and a pickup truck, according to the Sheriff’s Department. The sound of breaking glass was heard.

When police arrived, officers spotted a truck matching the witnesses’ description leaving the scene and attempted to pull the truck over using their lights and sirens, the Sheriff’s Department said.

The truck did not stop, the Sheriff’s Department said, and a pursuit ensued. Authorities said the truck drove erratically and lost control near McHenry Avenue and Patterson Road.

It struck a car, injuring the car’s driver, according to officials. Police tried to stop the pickup, the Sheriff’s Department said, by having a patrol car bump the pickup’s rear in an attempt to disable it.

The truck drove on until it hit a power pole near Ladd Road and McHenry Avenue, officials said. As the truck came to a stop, officers pulled their patrol cars behind it and got out of their cars.

The pickup truck driver then drove in reverse toward the officers and rammed a patrol car, sheriff’s officials said.

Four Modesto police officers fired into the pickup’s cab, sheriff’s officials said. The driver of the truck, a man, was struck several times and was pronounced dead.

The female passenger also was hit several times and was in serious condition at a Modesto hospital. She was not arrested.

Information on her condition was not available Sunday night.

Sheriff’s officials released scant information on the couple pending notification of next of kin. But a Sheriff’s Department spokesman said the couple are not from the Modesto area and the man had a felony record.

“There is a wide array of previous felony convictions,” deputy Luke Schwartz said.

Investigators said they found a loaded handgun in the pickup. The gun and truck were reported stolen in Nevada, in separate incidents this month, Schwartz said.

Nothing was stolen from the auto body shop, owned by recently appointed Modesto City councilwoman Stephanie Burnside and her family. Authorities believe the couple tried to take computers.

The officers involved in the shooting are on paid administrative leave, per department policy. Their names were not released.

The Sheriff’s Department is investigating the incident, as is the Modesto Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division. The district attorney’s office also is investigating.

This comes as another probe of the department is getting under way regarding the allegations in an anonymous letter recently received by city officials.

City officials announced this month that Palo Alto attorney Bob Aaronson would investigate police brutality claims against four officers. The anonymous letter also claims department managers looked the other way.

Aaronson contracts with Santa Cruz as an independent police and auditor and Davis as an independent police ombudsman.

He worked on an interim basis last year as Fresno’s independent police auditor until the city hired a permanent, full-time auditor.

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