Within view of a flower memorial that stands where a life was lost, over 100 community members lined the corner of Pearson and Black Olive Drive in Paradise, California Saturday afternoon. They were there to express anger against the ruling of Butte County District Attorney, Mike Ramsey, on a police shooting that occurred just before Thanksgiving this year.
On Thursday, Ramsey ruled that Paradise Police officer, Patrick Feaster, would not be criminally charged after “accidentally” shooting Andrew Thomas, 26, in the neck while trying to escape his overturned vehicle.
Feaster began pursuit after Thomas and his estranged wife Darien Ehorn left a Paradise sports bar, the Canteena, just before midnight on Thanksgiving eve. Radical driving and disregard for stoplights caused Feaster to suspect them of driving under the influence and approach the vehicle with his weapon drawn.
Footage from the dash-cam shows Feaster chasing the Toyota 4runner and follow the two until they hit a meridian and flipped. Ehorn, 23, was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead on the scene. Her husband tried to climb out of the rolled truck window, before he was shot in the neck.
While audio from the clip reveals that Feaster called in the crash, he makes no mention of shots fired. Ramsey stated that the officer didn’t say anything about the shooting until 11 minutes after backup had arrived on the scene.
Through a Facebook event, friends of those involved as well as community members upset with the decision, organized to meet at the Paradise Community Park. This location is not only across the street from where the accident occurred, but also within 100 feet of the Paradise Police Station.
Long time town resident and friend of Thomas, Joshua Turner, organized the event and said it was, “amazing and inspiring how many people came out to support.”
“Fire Feaster” and “Justice for Andrew,” were written on signs and chanted among the group that turned out to protest. They were supported by numerous honks from cars passing by before parading up Black Olive Drive to be directly in front of the police station.
Nathan Ramsay, not related to the DA, was one of the many personally affected by the incident and was present on Saturday afternoon. A friend of Thomas and Ehorn, Nathan was at the Canteena with the two before they left. He said that they had plans to come back to his house later that night.
He also went on to say that he had visited Andrew recently at Enloe Hospital. His friend could be paralyzed for the rest of his life but remains in stable condition. “He swears he wasn’t the one driving,” Ramsay said, “People have their judgments against Andrew, but they are going off of what they are seeing online and not what they know.”
Thomas could face charges of drunken vehicular manslaughter depending on whether or not he was behind the wheel.
Currently, Officer Feaster is on administrative leave but an internal investigation is being conducted. Some residents of the town are calling for immediate removal of his badge.
Once the video was released, along with Ramsey’s ruling, social media exploded with angry reactions from Paradise residents. An online petition that was started on Friday, calls for the firing of Officer Feaster and has already received over 1600 signatures.
“I’ve lived on the Ridge for a long time, we don’t have a bad police force, but this is a bad cop,” says Deb, owner of Da Coffee Pot in Magalia. While standing on the side of the busy road she held a sign questioning what would happen if a citizen had been the one to pull the trigger. “He didn’t even check on the girl in the video. We can’t allow this behavior in our town or in this country.”
The internal investigation on the matter is expected to be resolved within a few weeks, but until then the community is demanding justice on the nationwide relevant subject of police accountability which has unfortunately, come to the small and quiet town of Paradise.