Pedro Erik Villanueva

Fullerton, CA – An “always upbeat” teenager who loved to play guitar and soccer was killed earlier this week by undercover cops after they chased him down in an unmarked car.

Pedro Erik Villanueva, 19, was taking part in a “side show” where truck drivers meet up to show off their driving skills by peeling out and doing other antics. Police were monitoring the event, and when uniformed cops began to close in, Villanueva fled.

Two undercover California Highway Patrol (CHP) cops proceeded to chase Villanueva for several miles in their unmarked car and cornered him in a residential cul-de-sac. According to the police report, Villanueva made a U-turn and drove toward the officers, whereupon they opened fired, killing Villanueva and injuring the passenger.

CHP officials have admitted they don’t know if Villanueva was aware that he was being followed by police officers. The unmarked car did not have a dashcam and apparently did not have emergency lights.

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“Friends of Villanueva questioned the officers’ decision to follow the teenager with an unmarked car, contending that he may not have known he was being pursued by police, but rather feared he was being robbed on the dead-end street.”

Maxwell Zarifian, a friend of Villanueva, said, “Pedro wouldn’t have charged at police with his truck if he knew that they were police. What was he supposed to do if he didn’t know what was going on?”

Shooting into moving vehicles is banned by police departments in several major U.S. cities including Los Angeles, although the CHP has a more liberal policy for this extremely dangerous tactic.

“According to the CHP’s use-of-force policy, officers are allowed to use deadly force to stop the commission of an assault with a deadly weapon, including situations where a moving vehicle is considered the weapon.”

Time and time again we have seen cops lie or stretch the truth in order to justify their murder of a driver who actually posed no threat to anyone.

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This scenario is all too familiar with cops who are thirsty for blood. They put themselves in front of moving vehicles so they can “fear for their life” and shoot to kill. The car does not have to actually pose a threat, as in the case of Jessica Hernandez’s car, which traveled no more than 11 miles per hour over a distance of 16 feet. Two Denver cops shot her 18 times.

The only way the undercover cops in their unmarked cars could say Villanueva’s truck was a deadly weapon is if the cops put themselves in harm’s way by standing in front of his path.

There has been increased controversy over the dangerous police tactic of shooting into moving vehicles.

“Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum, said shootings like the one in Fullerton have been considered tactically unsound since the 1970s. He said that force experts reassessed the merits of opening fire at moving vehicles after a 1972 analysis of shootings by New York police officers found that a high percentage involved shooting at vehicles. The change has helped keep officers and suspects safe, he said.

“We have 44 years worth of evidence from New York City that this policy irrefutably reduces officer injuries and injuries and deaths to suspects,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Justice has also advised police departments not to shoot at moving vehicles, even when a suspect is driving toward an officer.

“First, it is difficult to shoot at a moving car with accuracy. Missed shots can hit bystanders or others in the vehicle. Second, if the driver is disabled by the shot, the vehicle may become unguided, making it potentially more dangerous,” the agency wrote in a 2014 summary of an investigation into the Cleveland Police Department’s use of force.”

The former L.A. County sheriff’s commander and chairman of strategy development for the National Tactical Officers Assn. has strong words for cops who think it’s a good idea to shoot into moving vehicles.

“Only a fool thinks a … bullet is going to stop a 3,800 pound car. Nobody is really shooting at the vehicle, they’re shooting at the driver,” said Sid Heal. “Then the natural thing is, what’s going to happen if you stop the driver? Is it going to prevent the attack? If not, it’s fruitless.”

It’s just as easy to miss the mark and hit a bystander or fellow cop when trying to shoot the driver. Even if a cop manages to disable or kill a maniac driver attempting to use his car as a weapon, it doesn’t guarantee the safety of officers or bystanders.

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“All you can do is take an aimed missile and turn it into an unaimed missile,” said Heal. “It doesn’t really stop the vehicle.”

Besides the use of a dangerous and increasingly forbidden tactic, and the fact that Villanueva had no way of knowing it was cops accosting him, what reason did the cops have for going after a kid running from a gathering of truck enthusiasts?

Wasn’t it enough to get his license plate number and back off, instead of pursuing him into a neighborhood and shooting to kill?

Villanueva’s death adds to a litany of those killed by cops in the past week, including the shocking murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile which are stirring the nation into upheaval.

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Justin Gardner is a peaceful free-thinker with a background in the biological sciences. He is interested in bringing rationality back into the national discourse, and independent journalism as a challenge to the status quo.