By Mark Gomez
SANTA CLARA, Calif — A Santa Clara police officer who was sprayed in the face with a chemical substance by a motorist during a traffic stop early Saturday morning fired his gun when the motorist walked toward him, according to the Santa Clara Police Department.
The motorist, who was driving a truck with a stolen license plate, fled the scene. It is unknown if he was wounded.
Officer Mark Barry, a five-year veteran of the Santa Clara Police Department, stopped a pick-up truck that had been reported as suspicious on Winchester Boulevard near Newhall Street at 2:21 a.m. While talking to the driver, who remained sitting in the truck, Barry was sprayed in the face with a caustic chemical, causing him to have difficulty breathing and seeing clearly.
As Barry backed away from the truck, the man got out of his truck and approached the officer. Believing his life was in danger, Barry fired his gun at the suspect, who got back into his truck and fled southbound on Winchester Boulevard. It is unknown if the driver was injured, according to police Sgt. Kurt Clarke. He said Barry fired "multiple" shots.
"The officer feared for his safety," Clarke said. "When someone assaults you with mace, or a caustic chemical, our belief is you are under attack and can use every means to defend yourself.
"Especially when he leaves the vehicle," Clarke added. "At that point, the officer is incapacitated. Officer Barry acted appropriately, believing his life was in danger."
Barry was taken to a local hospital, where he was treated and released. Clarke said in incidents such as this, the officer involved is given time off and then allowed to return to work.
Police checked local hospitals to see if the suspect had been treated for gunshot wounds.
The driver is described as a white man between the ages of 25 and 35 with blond to reddish hair in a buzz-cut style. The man had a beige bandage-type wrap on his forearm. The truck is described as an early-1980s Ford, dark in color, with a dark colored camper shell. It has a stolen license plate of 2P64466, and is described as having a loud exhaust.
The Santa Clara Police Department is seeking help finding the driver of the truck. Anyone with information is asked to contact detective Sgt. Brian Gilbert at (408) 615-4829. Those wishing to remain anonymous can leave a message on the police department's tip line at (408) 241-9495.
Copyright 2007 The San Jose Mercury News
Calif. officer sprayed with chemical shoots at driver