Democrat staff writer
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The March shooting of a mental health patient who fled from officers in a stolen ambulance was justified, states a report from the El Dorado County District AttorneyÕs Office.
The report, released Thursday night, states Placerville Police officer Nick MaurerÕs use of deadly force against Folsom woman Linda Clark was Òreasonable under the circumstances, and therefore justified, as he was acting in lawful self-defense, defense of others, and for the protection of general public.Ó
Clark, 39, escaped from PlacervilleÕs Marshall Medical Center on March 28 in an ambulance parked outside of the hospital. After a brief, slow chase through Placerville, Clark was shot and killed in a Cedar Ravine cul-de-sac by Maurer.
Clark had been told by officers to exit the ambulance but instead hit one patrol car and accelerated towards Maurer before he opened fire.
She was brought to the hospital the night of March 27 and placed on an involuntary hold as a danger to herself after a law enforcement officer witnessed Clark walk out into traffic. She was awaiting transfer to a psychiatric facility at the time of her escape.
Federal reports state Clark was left largely unattended prior to leaving the hospital.
The 50-page report details the events of March 28, starting with ClarkÕs exit from Marshall Medical Center.
On the morning of March 28, Placerville police learned that Clark had stolen an ambulance from the hospital. Minutes later, Maurer spotted Clark on Thompson Way, near Sierra Elementary School. Maurer reportedly attempted a routine traffic stop and saw Clark hit a road sign.
ClarkÕs ambulance then came to a complete stop and the officer exited his patrol car and approached Clark with his gun drawn.
Seeing this, Clark sped off and continued down Thompson Way and onto Main Street before turning left down Cedar Ravine.
Maurer, along with Sgt. John Kunkle and officer Chris Woolever, surrounded Clark at the cul-de-sac with their patrol cars. Clark then backed the ambulance into the cars and came to a stop at a grassy hillside.
Kunkle approached Clark and attempted to pull her out of the ambulance through the driverÕs side window before Clark pulled away in reverse.
Woolever then hit Clark with both prongs of his Taser. Clark Òshowed no apparent effect or reaction of being hitÓ and continued on in reverse.
Seven minutes after officers were dispatched, Maurer shot at Clark five times. The report says Maurer shot at Clark, who was accelerating towards the officer, because he feared for the safety of himself and his fellow officers, as well as the safety of the public at large.
An eyewitness, Philip Darnell, said the ambulanceÕs driving was Òdefinitely aggressiveÓ and that Clark appeared Òintent on hitting those cop cars.Ó
Maurer was placed on routine administrative leave but has since returned to active duty.
During the autopsy, it was determined that Clark died of a Ògunshot wound to the head into the neck.Ó Two other Òsignificant factorsÓ in ClarkÕs death, according to the autopsy, were acute psychosis and elevated levels of an appetite suppressant in ClarkÕs system.
To clear up ÒinconsistenciesÓ in the Placerville police report, the District AttorneyÕs Office conducted its own reenactment of the shooting, which answered many Òlingering questions.Ó The results of those reenactments, according to the report, were consistent with MaurerÕs given statements.
The DAÕs office also recruited the assistance of two retired California Highway Patrol Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team members who reconstructed the shooting. Their independent findings were in-line with the reconstruction staged by the DAÕs Office.
El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson said he was satisfied with the reportÕs findings and thoroughness.
ÒWeÕve made every effort to make an investigation and report that was both thorough and unbiased,Ó he said. ÒWe went through the extra steps of doing our own reenactment as well as using a third-party reconstruction. This is the final product.Ó
Pierson also said he was hopeful the findings would help ease public concerns over any perceived secrecy or wrong-doing.
ÒI canÕt tell people what to think,Ó he said. ÒI can only tell them what the facts are.Ó
The full report as well as the reenactment videos can be seen on the DAÕs Website.
E-mail Jim Ratajczak at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-344-5071.