By Thomas Watkins
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Two Burbank police officers were placed on temporary leave Tuesday as authorities investigated their actions in the shooting of a suspect after a high-speed, rush-hour chase.
The shooting occurred Monday evening, when the stolen Chevrolet Blazer being pursued got stuck in traffic near Universal Studios.
Officers got out of their cars and maneuvered so they were standing on either side and behind the vehicle.
As the car moved away, one officer fired through the driver's side window, missing the driver and striking the vehicle, Burbank police Lt. Jon Dilibert said.
Footage from news helicopters showed the officers were potentially in one another's line of fire and surrounded by several cars.
Officers followed the Blazer a short distance before the driver, identified as Steven Satterly, 30, got out near the entrance to Universal Studios and tried to run away, ignoring demands to stop.
He was shot once in the torso and was in stable condition. Police said he had been armed with a knife.
Some experts questioned the decision to shoot into the car, saying firing at moving vehicles is fraught with risk, particularly in traffic or residential areas.
"I was concerned about other citizens who were in neighboring cars," said Carl Douglas, an attorney who has represented police shooting plaintiffs for more than 25 years.
"A bullet could go through a windshield and strike someone else in another traffic lane," he said.
He cautioned, however, that he did not know all the facts of the case.
Douglas also questioned the shooting of Satterly as he tried to flee on foot, a move police defended because they believed he was headed toward a crowded tourist area.
Dilibert said the officers had to make a quick decision in tough circumstances.
"You have to take into account a lot of things," he said. "Sometimes you have to do what you have to do. ... You are in a very fast-moving and fluid situation, where you are compelled to make split-section decisions where everything is moving."
Satterly was wanted for attempted murder in his hometown of Wabash, Ind., and his status had been clearly communicated to officers during the pursuit, Dilibert said.
The Burbank city attorney's office did not immediately describe departmental policy involving shooting at moving vehicles. Such shootings are barred in the Los Angeles Police Department except under extraordinary circumstances.
Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina criminologist, said the police actions appeared to be tactically unsound because Satterly's vehicle was not blocked in and officers were potentially in each other's way.
"There clearly was a potential for a crossfire situation," he said. "The tactics in this operation could certainly be reviewed for training purposes."
The unidentified officers involved in the shooting were both veterans, each with more than 20 years experience. They were placed on leave according to standard procedure after police shootings.
The Burbank Police Department and the Los Angeles County district attorney's office were investigating the shooting.
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The hour-long, 80-mile pursuit began in San Bernardino County, where officers attempted to pull over Satterly for speeding, police said. The chase continued west on Interstate 210 and State Highway 134, at times reaching 100 mph, then onto streets in Los Angeles and Burbank.