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Questions over police firing at chase suspect in rush-hour traffic; investigation launched [Updated]

March 30, 2010 |  2:02 pm

Multiple investigations were launched Tuesday into the actions of Burbank police officers who tried to stop a high-speed pursuit by firing at the suspect while they were stopped in rush-hour traffic Monday.

Officials said they are looking at the tactics used by the officers, who fired at the suspect on two occasions during the wild chase.

Of biggest concern is one officer's decision to fire into the suspect's SUV while he was in the middle of traffic on Barham Boulevard near the 101 Freeway. The officer, whose name was not released, was standing to the side of the suspect's vehicle.

The driver tried to pull away from stopped traffic in the direction of the officer, who fired at least one shot.

One expert who reviewed the tape for The Times said he was concerned because the shots could have hit motorists in surrounding cars. Geoffrey P. Alpert, professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina, said the tape doesn't tell whole story, but it raises questions about tactics.

"It appears that they failed to take tactical advantage as they approached the suspect, therefore putting officer and, perhaps, civilian lives at risk," Alpert said. He added "There may be more facts beyond what can be seen in the video that would justify the use of deadly force."

That shot by the officer didn't hit the suspect, 30-year-old Steve Satterly of Wabash Ind., who proceeded to drive to the parking entrance of Universal City. He tried to run from officer and was shot and wounded, said Burbank police spokesman Robert Quesada.

Satterly, who was wanted for allegedly stabbing his ex-girlfriend in Indiana, was shot because he was armed with a knife and did not follow orders from officers, Quesada said. "He was armed and dangerous and his actions were threat to society," Quesada said.

"They [the officers] could not allow this guy to escape, especially because he was armed and going towards City Walk." But experts questioned the tactics that led up to the shootings, especially the decision by one of the officers who opened fire at the suspect on Barham.

The pursuit began around 4 p.m. when California Highway Patrol officers in the Cajon Pass spotted a dark-colored Chevy Blazer that had been reported stolen following a stabbing in Indiana. For the better part of an hour, Satterly led police east down the Foothill Freeway and then on to the Ventura Freeway, hitting speeds of up to 100 m.p.h. The chase eventually reached Burbank, where the suspect got off the freeway and began driving on surface streets, leading the CHP to hand off the pursuit to Burbank police officers.

[Updated at 2:30 p.m.: The case is being investigated by the L.A. County district attorney and Burbank police.]

--Andrew Blankstein

Photo: KTLA. Watch video of chase here via KTLA News.

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