Gallegos says CHP officer acted within his rights
By EMILY WILSON, The Eureka Reporter
Published: Jan 10 2008, 3:30 AM · Updated: Jan 10 2008, 3:41 AM
Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos hosted a news conference
Wednesday to share his decision not to press criminal charges against a
California Highway Patrol officer for shooting an alleged drunk driver.
Officer Jeff Goodwin, who has been employed by the CHP for more than 10
years, shot Rodney J. Bartow, 53, in the shoulder on Sept. 23 after the
officer said that Bartow attempted to drive his vehicle over him.
“The officer was in fear for his life,” Gallegos said.
The incident evolved when Goodwin responded to a report of a drunk driver
near the Union 76 gas station in Blue Lake.
Goodwin located the suspected car — an older blue sedan with a cracked
windshield and a driver who wasn’t wearing a seat belt.
He attempted a make traffic stop, but Bartow pressed on the gas pedal and a
car chase ensued.
As previously reported in The Eureka Reporter, Goodwin followed Bartow’s car
out State Highway 299 and about 17 miles down Snow Camp Road, where Bartow
eventually stopped at a locked metal gate.
The officer stepped out of his patrol car and took position behind it. He
drew his weapon and Bartow began to reverse his car in Goodwin’s direction,
Goodwin fired three shots at the approaching vehicle and one of them struck
Bartow in the right shoulder.
The officer was not injured.
A handgun was recovered from Bartow’s pocket. It didn’t have a serial
number, and was not loaded, Gallegos said.
“The evidence shows that Officer Goodwin’s conduct was legally justified,”
Gallegos said. “He had the right first, to self-defense, then, to use
reasonable force to arrest Mr. Bartow and prevent his escape.”
Bartow was arrested the following day after receiving medical treatment. He
posted $50,000 bail the day after that. Goodwin took a short administrative
leave after the shooting, Gallegos said.
“I have concluded that Officer Goodwin had reasonable cause to believe that
Mr. Bartow was resisting arrest, committing an aggravated assault upon him
and was engaged in conduct that posed an immediate threat of serious
physical injury or death to himself and others,” Gallegos said.
At his arraignment Wednesday, Bartow pleaded not guilty to the charges filed
against him. They include attempted assault with a deadly weapon; disregard
for safety while attempting to elude a peace officer; driving under the
influence of alcohol and/or drugs; being a felon in possession of a firearm;
and driving on a suspended license.
A trial will take place in March. Bartow’s defense is provided by Deputy
Public Defender Andrew L. Truitt. Deputy District Attorney Max Cardoza is
prosecuting the case.
Gallegos said he was grateful to the CHP officers and Humboldt County
Sheriff’s Office deputies who contributed to the investigation.