Friday, June 14, 2013

Aleman v. Uribe (9th Cir. - June 14, 2013)

Think being a police officer is easy?  Think again.

Three people rob a person of his wallet and necklace at gunpoint.  LAPD officers receive a report of the crime over the radio and immediately start following a gray Honda that they suspect may contain the perpetrators.  A high-speed chase ensues.

So far, just a regular day in L.A.  The high-speed chase seems a bit excessive for an everyday piece of street crime, but whatever.

The Honda drives into Toonerville territory, an LA street gang.  When the chase reaches the heart of Toonerville, the officers notice a washing machine in the middle of the street.  What the heck?

The officers slow down to avoid the washing machine, and drive around it.  At which point someone throws a bicycle in front of their vehicle as well.  Clearly, this is no accident.  Someone's trying to help the suspects escape the chase.  Presumably colleagues from Toonerville.

But what's shocking to me isn't that.  It's darn, darn bold to essentially set up roadblocks on public streets to try to stop the police.  But what's stunning is what happens next.

The perpetrators aren't just setting up a roadblock.  It's an ambush.

As the officers are slowed and diverted by the washing machine and bicycle, a sniper starts shooting at them.  Plus the occupants of the Honda start shooting at them as well.  The officers immediately call for backup, and try to speed away, but the suspects in the Honda block their escape.

This is like something out of a movie.  Like this one.  Something that happens only in the minds of a Hollywood writer or maybe -- and even then, only maybe -- in Columbia.  A deliberate ambush of the police in Los Angeles?  Over the theft of a wallet and gold chain?  Wow.

Fortunately, the officers make it out, and two of the three suspects in the vehicle are caught.  (Though the third one, and the sniper in Toonerville, are never found.)  The suspects are convicted of attempted first-degree murder of a peace officer and sentenced to two consecutive life terms.  Convictions that are not only affirmed at the state level, but at the federal habeas level as well.

I'd have never thought that a street gang would be so bold (or stupid) to deliberately ambush and try to kill police officers in order to escape a high-speed case.  Apparently I'm wrong.

Pretty stunning.  At least to me.