By Bay City News Service and Patch Staff
The Bay Area has experienced a flurry of fatal officer-involved shootings in the last week.
Five suspects were shot and killed by police officers since last Thursday in incidents in Union City, Hayward, San Francisco, San Jose and Sonoma County.
The rare spike in such incidents has caused criminal experts to weigh-in on the subject.
Are cops on-edge after the killing of two on-duty police officers in Santa Cruz last Tuesday? Or are the criminals more brazen, inspired by false martyr Christopher Dorner and his cop-killing manifesto?
Jeff Snipes, chair of Criminal Justice Studies at San Francisco State University, said the flurry of shootings cannot be directly connected to the fallen officers in Santa Cruz, but it may be an influencing factor.
"These incidents are so infrequent," he said, and noted that officer-involved shootings tend to happen in small clusters.
He called for an analysis of each fatal shooting to draw stronger conclusions.
He said the Santa Cruz killings, in which Detective Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler were killed, won't necessarily put all law enforcement on heightened security or make them "more trigger happy."
But he did say there is a possibility that the police and community-at-large are more "hypersensitive" after the deadly events in Santa Cruz.
Michael Rushford, president of the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, speculated that a potential increase in officer-involved shootings throughout California could be due to state prison realignment.
"The state has washed its hands of a large variety of criminals they no longer consider serious enough to go to state prison," Rushford said.
Rushford said police working the field have an increased awareness that low-level offenders, such as car thieves and burglars, may be armed, especially after an incident such as in Santa Cruz.
Four of the recent fatal shootings happened over the weekend, with the first weekend incident involving Daly City police within San Francisco city limits on Saturday around 12:30 a.m.
Aaron Sawyer, 23, was shot after Daly City police pursued Sawyer in a stolen vehicle from Daly City to Bayshore Boulevard in San Francisco. After running from police, Sawyer allegedly raised his gun at a Daly City police officer, who then shot the suspect in the torso.
On Saturday afternoon, San Jose police shot and killed a man following a high-speed pursuit in which the suspect rammed at least three marked police cars.
That night around 10 p.m. a suspect — identified as 26-year-old Amos Smith of Union City — was shot and killed in Union City when he drove away from police in a vehicle, then fled on foot before allegedly brandishing a weapon and pointing it at officers.
The Union City shooting has sparked a lengthy debate on Patch, with both praise and criticism for the officers' action.
The most recent officer-involved fatal incident was Sunday around 3:30 a.m. in Hayward.
The suspect, Arthur Packman, 23, of Oakley, allegedly rammed his vehicle into a police vehicle. An officer fired at the vehicle, which then crashed. A passenger was killed in the accident, while Packman tried to flee on foot before he collapsed and was arrested.
Before the spate of shootings last weekend, Sonoma County sheriff's deputies shot and killed kidnapping suspect 37-year-old Richard Shreckengaust of Marin County last Thursday night. He led authorities on a car chase from Marin County toward Guerneville in Sonoma County while allegedly holding an acquaintance against her will in his car.
After crashing, Shreckengaust refused to come out of his vehicle and a deputy thought he saw him reach for a weapon and he was shot two to three times.
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