Local News

Friday, May 08 2009 03:27 PM

CHP officers fired

BY STEVEN MAYER, Californian staff writer smayer@bakersfield.com

Two California Highway Patrol officers involved in a shooting last September that left a 14-year-old girl wounded have apparently been fired by the department.

CHP Officer David Mata and his partner, Jose Magdaleno "are no longer employed with the CHP," the department said in a statement released Friday.

"Because this is a personnel issue," the statement continued, the department was prohibited from saying anything further.

But the attorney representing the wounded girl had plenty to say.

"If you read between the lines, it confirms what we believe to be true, that the officers gave a story that simply wasn't true," said Bakersfield attorney Daniel Rodriguez. "They were trying to cover for their policy violation."

The shooting occurred not long after midnight Sept. 21 on a rural roadway near Edison, east of Bakersfield.

The officers were responding to reports of street racing in the area. After stopping one car to question its occupants, Mata fired one shot at a moving car, striking the 14-year-old passenger identified only as Jennifer.

The CHP initially reported that that the car was accelerating toward the officer, and that Jennifer was grazed by an unknown object, possibly flying glass or a bullet fragment.

But Rodriguez said evidence shows the bullet pierced the passenger window, struck the girl near her right collar bone and and left an exit wound on the left side of her chest near her armpit.

Within hours of the Sept. 21 incident, discrepancies began to appear between the facts of the case and details submitted by the two officers. Superior officers were not informed that one of their officers had fired his weapon at a moving car until some 90 minutes afterward, when the girl was taken to a Kern Medical Center with a gunshot injury.

CHP shooting policy states that any officer who fires a weapon must report the incident "immediately" to a supervisor after the situation has stabilized.

In addition, the original CHP report failed to mention the second wound.

Mata and Magdaleno were placed on desk duty pending completion of the investigation.

Neither Mata nor Magdaleno could be reached for comment Friday.

Rodriguez complimented the CHP for "taking appropriate steps" once it was determined that an investigation was needed.

Rodriguez said he will file a lawsuit against the state alleging the officer used excessive force and violated department policy.

His client, he said, is receiving treatment for symptoms of post-traumatic stress, including nightmares and difficulty sleeping.

He also said he has been asking the Kern County District Attorney's office if criminal charges will be filed against the officers for making a false report to a law enforcement agency.

But he hasn't received an answer.

"Unfortunately, the prosecutor's office is not very enthusiastic about filing charges against law enforcement," he said. "Because of that, we're not holding our breath."

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