Crime - Sacto 911

Was this man a threat to the CHP officer who shot him? Newly released video raises questions

CHP officer shoots Sacramento man on an Interstate 5 overpass

California Highway Patrol Officer Paul Shadwell shot Daniel Shaham within seconds after the Sacramento man exited his vehicle. Shadwell said Shaham had a knife. It appears to take about 20 minutes before Shaham receives medical assistance. He died
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California Highway Patrol Officer Paul Shadwell shot Daniel Shaham within seconds after the Sacramento man exited his vehicle. Shadwell said Shaham had a knife. It appears to take about 20 minutes before Shaham receives medical assistance. He died

California Highway Patrol Officer Paul Shadwell approaches the passenger side of the parked Toyota sedan with his hands on his hips, saying something to the driver sitting inside.

Within eight seconds, Daniel Shaham emerges from the driver’s side, and Shadwell draws his pistol and aims it at the 31-year-old Sacramento man, who appears to have something in his right hand. Sixteen seconds later, Shadwell opens fire, shooting Shaham four times and killing him.

Shadwell calls in the shooting, but the video doesn’t show him trying to help the young man on the ground. Instead, he puts up police tape. Eventually other officers arrive and begin CPR on Shaham – 23 minutes after he is shot.

These are the images from newly released video showing the June 2016 confrontation in which Shadwell shot and killed Shaham on an Interstate 5 overpass near Yreka, a case that has spawned a federal wrongful death lawsuit and conflicting accounts of whether Shadwell was justified in using deadly force.

“It’s shocking,” said Oakland attorney Michael Haddad, who is suing the CHP on behalf of Shaham’s mother, Sacramento physician Denise Smart. “It’s one of the most notorious shooting videos I’ve seen. If you just believe your own eyes watching the video, anyone can see Daniel is no threat.”

Law enforcement authorities in Siskiyou County, where the shooting took place, disagree, saying Shaham had a folding knife in his right hand and that the use of deadly force was justified.

“He believed and was afraid that Shaham was going to try to kill him,” District Attorney Kirk Andrus wrote in his Aug. 10 report on the shooting. “He discharged his firearm to stop that threat.”

In the video recordings, released to The Sacramento Bee in response to a California Public Records Act request, Shadwell is seen after he has approached a car where Shaham was parked on a roadway over Interstate 5 north of Weed. Shadwell appears to order Shaham out of the car. Within seconds, Shaham is dead and lying on the pavement.

The video records Shadwell after the shooting reporting over the radio that he has been involved in a “combat shooting” and that the suspect is “1144,” or likely dead. The recording shows Shadwell subsequently stringing police tape along the roadway as he awaits assistance in the remote area, and waving a passing car away from the scene. But it does not show him approaching the body or providing medical assistance.

Other officers arrive on the scene about 19 minutes later, and begin performing CPR efforts 23 minutes after the shooting, according to the video. Those efforts continue for about 12 minutes.

The videos were recorded by the mobile vehicle audio recording system in Shadwell’s CHP patrol car, and include a nearly four-minute recording of Shadwell’s initial contact with Shaham and a nearly two-hour recording of the follow-up contact during which Shadwell shoots Shaham.

The CHP initially declined to release the videos to The Bee, but later agreed to provide redacted versions that blur out the image of Shaham’s body lying next to his car after he is shot, as well as his face. The agency also provided access to the video to Haddad, whose lawsuit is pending in federal court in Sacramento.

Shaham, a former chemistry major at Sacramento State, was on a driving vacation in the northern part of the state when he was killed. His mother’s lawyer has described him as mentally ill but “moderate- to high-functioning” and said he enjoyed driving in the countryside.

The day he was killed, Shaham had pulled over on Louie Road over the interstate, and passers-by reported him looking down at the roadway or attempting to climb onto the guardrail.

At about 10 a.m., Shadwell responded to a 911 call about Shaham’s behavior and approached him as Shaham was standing near his car. The video shows the CHP officer chatting with Shaham briefly, then walking away and getting into his vehicle as Shaham slowly gets back into his own car.

“Shaham walked toward Officer Shadwell, who asked him if he was all right,” the District Attorney’s report on the shooting stated. “Shaham responded that he was and was simply watching traffic.

“Officer Shadwell asked him if he was suicidal. Shaham responded that he was ‘good.’ This contact ended at 10:06 a.m.”

After Shadwell returned to his patrol car, he backed up and continued to watch Shaham sitting in his car. The officer also read comments on his computer from a passerby who had reported the man had been on top of the guardrail and “he decided to re-contact Shaham and ask him about his actions,” the district attorney’s report says.

The second video recording shows Shadwell approach Shaham’s car on the passenger side and saying something through the closed window. Shaham starts to get out of the driver’s side of the car. Shadwell pulls his pistol out and backs up a few steps as he aims it at Shaham and begins barking commands.

The recording provided by the CHP did not include audio on this portion, but the DA’s report says Shadwell saw Shaham inside the car holding a folding knife with a four- to five-inch blade that he was opening and partially closing with his thumb.

That prompted Shadwell to order Shaham several times to put the knife away, the report says.

Full-length footage shows CHP officer shooting Sacramento man and the long wait for medical assistance.

“Instead, Shaham got out of his car with the knife still in his hand,” the report states, adding that Shadwell drew his weapon and “retreated back toward his patrol car while giving continuous commands to ‘stop’ and ‘drop the knife.’ 

The report, which is based in part on a review of the videos, says Shaham did not obey and “deliberately closed the distance between himself and Officer Shadwell” by walking sideways “to keep the front of his body oriented squarely toward Officer Shadwell.”

The report concludes that Shaham was holding the knife out in front of him at a 90-degree angle and was 12 feet from the officer when Shadwell shot him four times: twice in the chest, once in the right thigh and once in the left lower back.

The report concluded that Shaham could have charged Shadwell and stabbed him within one second, or that he could have “thrown the knife at Officer Shadwell with virtually no warning.”

Haddad disputes the conclusions, saying the video provides proof that Shadwell could have defused the situation without shooting Shaham, and adding that he believes the knife is folded closed in the video, despite the fact that the footage is blurred.

“It’s really sad,” Haddad said. “What’s so shocking to me is you can see the officer is not facing an immediate threat of death or serious harm, which the law requires.

“They’re required to consider alternatives, and Daniel, who he knew by then was mentally ill, was far from a deadly force threat. This situation had not yet begun to escalate where it even approached the need for any force. This one is as shocking and unjustified a shooting as any we’ve seen.”

Haddad also questioned why there is no audio of the gun being fired or of the commands Shadwell can be seen shouting at Shaham. The initial one minute and six seconds of the recording are silent. Later portions of the recording appear to include traffic sounds from the freeway below, as well as radio traffic from dispatchers and Shadwell reporting in that Shaham had come at him with a knife.

The CHP has declined to comment on the shooting, saying it does not discuss pending litigation. The agency did not immediately respond Wednesday to questions over whether the audio of the shooting was redacted or if Shadwell provided medical assistance to Shaham after the shooting.

The first signs on the video of CPR being performed come 23 minutes after the recording begins, with officers pressing his chest repeatedly and eventually being replaced with paramedics.

Law enforcement agencies typically report that officers provide medical assistance following an officer-involved shooting. The Placer County Sheriff’s Office, for instance, lists among its general orders the requirement that following a shooting, deputies “take action to care for the injured, including the request for emergency medical aid.”

The state Department of Justice law enforcement policy and procedures manual from March 2015 states that “medical assistance shall be obtained for any person who has sustained visible injury, expressed a complaint of injury or continuing pain, or who has been rendered unconscious.”

Sam Stanton: 916-321-1091, @StantonSam

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