NewsCrime

Actions

Chandler PD may have violated policies during shooting and pursuit before serious crash

Posted: 7:31 PM, Apr 13, 2022
Updated: 2022-04-13 22:31:14-04

CHANDLER, AZ — *Warning: This story contains graphic content which may be inappropriate to some audiences*

Newly released body camera footage, audio and police reports reveal Chandler police officers may have violated multiple policies when they shot a fleeing suspect, then pursued him at more than 100 mph on busy streets.

The incident from July 24, 2021, ended in a horrific crash where 10 people were injured, two of them critically.

Disclaimer: Andy Ramirez is an employee of ABC15 and was a victim involved in this crash. Ramirez continues to recover at home from his injuries.

One officer who responded to the scene called it “complete carnage and destruction."

Another remarked that he had "no idea" what the RV hit, “it’s that bad.”

The shooting and subsequent chase and crash are the subject of a $19 million notice of claim.

That legal action is being taken by the two most critically injured victims, Andy and Norma Ramirez.

THE SHOOTING: “Are we gonna give commands?”

On a busy Saturday night, not far from the downtown bars, Chandler officers were called to check out a suspicious RV that neighbors noticed trespassing outside an unoccupied house.

When officers approached the RV, they saw Arnold Serrano. They gave the convicted felon, who had an active warrant, commands to come out.

Instead, officers say they saw him quickly reach for something on the ground and, fearing it was a gun, ran across the street and took cover while calling for backup.

As backup was arriving on the scene, dispatchers and officers talked tactics.

“Do we need to put any stop sticks in front of it?” asked one employee.

“It's blocked by a little, tiny gate,” responded another officer.

A decision was never made and stop sticks were never put outside the gate.

Officers though, noticed that Serrano appeared to be preparing to leave.

“He is putting the awning away of the RV. So I don't know if he's thinking he’s about to take off or not,” remarked an officer, monitoring Serrano from afar.

It took just a few minutes for Lt. David Selvidge, Sgt. Kevin O’Berry, and Sgt. Daniel Mellentine to respond as backup.

While one mutes his body camera to "discuss tactics," the supervisors appear to be unprepared when Serrano puts the RV in drive, rams the gate, and starts to drive off.

One female officer shouts questions to her nearby supervisors, who do not appear to ever answer her.

“I see him in the front! Are we gonna give commands? Because he's starting the engine. What are we doing," she asks, before a long, silent pause.

"He's gonna ram it. He's gonna ram it!”

“Clear the way, clear the way!” another female officer shouts.

Seconds later, as Serrano starts to drive, Lt. Selvidge takes a few steps back and fires four rounds at the moving vehicle.

One of the shots goes through Serrano’s forearm. Another grazes his shoulder. He continues to drive though.

Lt. Selvidge never turned his body camera on. He later told his coworker investigating the shooting that his intentions were to create a plan and “not be involved.”

The lieutenant would later tell investigators he was concerned about being run over and fired “as soon as he saw the grill turn towards him.”

Chandler's policy clearly states officers should not "fire at... a moving vehicle except when necessary for self-defense... and all other means have been exhausted."

The Pursuit: “He just blew a red light... We’re over about 100 mph.”

After the shooting, at least five officers started chasing Serrano in the RV.

Chandler Police Department's policy states the "primary concern in pursuit[s]...is the protection of lives and the safety of all civilians and officers.”

The policy also makes clear, "A pursuit is justified only when the necessity of immediate apprehension outweighs the level of danger created by the pursuit."

Officers are also not allowed to pursue for anything other than a violent felony.

Lt. Selvidge states at the initial call, “we have a trespasser.”

But a sergeant later claims he continued the chase because Serrano committed "aggravated assault" against Lt. Selvidge.

Serrano was never charged with aggravated assault on a peace officer.

Officers are also required to constantly assess if the pursuit should continue. The same sergeant said he did not stop the pursuit because the suspect was “possibly shot and his identity was unknown.”

Policy also states officers should terminate a pursuit if: "air support becomes available," "continued pursuit would require exceptional speed," or "when vehicular or pedestrian traffic necessitates erratic maneuvering."

“There was so much pedestrian traffic and vehicles, I'm trying to get through as quick as I can, but not get in a wreck myself,” said the Sgt., when being interviewed after the crash.

Less than two minutes after the shooting, and eight seconds after being clocked going over 100 mph, Serrano rolled the RV at Dobson and Frye roads.

Ten adults and children were hurt, two of them critically.

The aftermath: “He said he’s gonna go unconscious and can’t breathe.”

Firefighters eventually used a piece of equipment referred to as "the jaws of life" to get Ramirez out from the smashed car and to the hospital. He was in a medically induced coma for nearly two weeks.

Nearly nine months later he is still recovering at home.

Like Ramirez, Serrano had multiple fractured vertebrae.

The case is now waiting in the lengthy backlog of "officer-involved shootings" that the Maricopa County Attorney's Office has to review for a criminal charging decision.

The City of Chandler says they are aware of the legal claim but have not made any decisions regarding a potential settlement.

Serrano took a plea deal at the end of March for one count of aggravated assault in connection to the crash. He also agreed to plead guilty to another aggravated assault charge in connection to a shooting one month prior to the crash.

An MCAO spokesperson tells ABC15 Serrano will be sentenced at the end of April and is looking at 10-15 years in prison.