Crime - Sacto 911

Crime Q&A: What happened to officer in 1994 shooting of unarmed man during pursuit?

Q: What happened to the officers in the shooting death of Marco Ellsworth in the late 1990s?

Momz, Sacramento

A: The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office determined that a Sacramento police officer was justified in fatally shooting Marco Ellsworth, who had threatened to kill an officer in a pursuit, although it was found that Ellsworth was unarmed.

Ellsworth was killed after an early morning high-speed chase June 2, 1994, that began in Meadowview and ended on a dead-end street in the Pocket area. The Sacramento Bee reported that, according to reports by police, witnesses and the District Attorney’s Office, the fatal confrontation began after Ellsworth made an illegal turn shortly after midnight at 29th Street and Meadowview Road. Officer Richard LaPorta flashed his lights to pull over the Buick carrying Ellsworth and his cousin, Adam Solorio, who was a passnger.

As LaPorta walked toward the car, Ellsworth sped off, leading the officer and a growing number of squad cars on a chase through the Meadowview and Pocket areas at speeds up to 100 mph.

During the pursuit, investigators said, Ellsworth’s car ran red lights, drove the wrong way on divided streets, sped down sidewalks with headlights out and forced at least three cars off the pavement. He was overtaken when he drove onto a cul-de-sac int the Pocket area.

Solorio ran away and was captured hiding in a garbage can. Meanwhile, Ellsworth ran to the car’s trunk, which had popped open during the chase, and frantically rummaged through it.

Believing Ellsworth was searching for a gun, investigators said, LaPorta struck him with a flashlight. Ellsworth struck LaPorta in the face, grabbed, lifted and kicked the officer and seized his flashlight. During the struggle, Ellsworth fled and reportedly yelled at LaPorta to leave him alone or he would kill the officer. Ellsworth stumbled and fell, spun into a seated position, reportedly held his arms outstretched as if pointing a gun at the officer and “tracked” the officer’s attempts to avoid his aim. LaPorta then drew his weapon and fired nine rounds at Ellsworth.

If was found that Ellsworth did not have a weapon, but the District Attorney’s Office concluded that the officer was entitled to rely on appearances.

Although police ruled the shooting justifiable and the District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute the officer, the city of Sacramento paid $15,000 to to Ellsworth’s mother to settle a claim in the case.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy