The scene of a fatal traffic collision in Fountain Valley last year could’ve ended up much more grisly. On Oct. 13, 2017, police officers responded to the intersection of Magnolia and Mint Avenue around 11:35 p.m. They closed off sections of the main street into the morning hours when a black Dodge Dakota barreled at them going 60 miles per hour.
According to a report released yesterday by the Orange County District Attorney’s (OCDA) office, Matthew Snoyman drove his truck towards two parked Fountain Valley police patrol cars but missed hitting them when he wildly swerved out of the way. The 34-year-old Westminster man ripped through accident debris and police tape when headed towards sergeant James Cataline who drew his weapon and took cover. Sergeant Mike Parsons yelled for Snoyman to stop. Officers at the scene didn’t know if he drove drunk or intended to use his truck as a weapon.
Either way, Snoyman drove past all the officers who didn’t open fire at the time. The night took a strange u-turn for the worse when the truck spun around and headed back in the direction of police. Just before that, Parsons shone his flashlight at Snoyman and approached him. But the driver hit the gas pedal instead causing Parsons to shoot once through the front windshield after commands for him to stop went unheeded. He dove for safety and fired another round.
“If I stayed where I was, I would have been killed,” Parsons told OCDA investigators.
Sergeant Farmer witnessed the incident as it happened and fired five rounds at Snoyman. Cataline also fired his weapon at the truck’s windshield and continued pumping rounds when Snoyman drove past him. Officer Joseph Zane gave chase in his patrol car after the harrowing moments and tracked down the driver when he turned on Bushard Street. Snoyman appeared drunk at the scene of his apprehension. He admitted to guzzling a six-pack of beers before getting behind the wheel and was on his way to buy more booze.
Snoyman didn’t recall seeing any police officers and didn’t know why he had been shot. “I was pretty intoxicated,” he told OCDA investigators. Despite all the gunfire, Snoyman only suffered a shoulder wound which was treated at UC Irvine Medical Center.
Claiming to have blacked out during the incident didn’t save Snoyman from any legal trouble. On May 23, prosecutors charged him with two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer and two misdemeanor DUI charges. On Wednesday, Snoyman pleaded guilty to all charges.
With a conviction and investigation complete, all that was left for the OCDA to do was release its legal conclusion on the case. “A jury analyzing these facts would justly conclude that it was reasonable for all three Sergeants to believe that lives of all present, particularly Sergeant Parsons, were in danger,” the investigative letter reads. “Sergeants Farmer, Cataline, and Parsons were justified when they shot at Snoyman, and all three sergeants carried out their duties as peace officers in a reasonable, justifiable and necessary manner.”
The clearing of the Fountain Valley police in the officer-involved shooting comes two days after prosecutors charged 24-year-old Jonathan Truong St. Thomas with murder for allegedly driving drunk and crashing into Melanie Barrow’s car, killing the 25-year-old woman just hours before the Snoyman incident at the scene.
Regarding the latter, as always, read the OCDA’s report in its entirety online.