Sheriff Details Deadly Freeway Police Shooting

SANTA ANA (CNS) - Authorities today released their first detailed description -- along with video footage -- of a multi-agency law enforcement shooting that killed a DUI suspect on Interstate 805 in San Diego County last week following a road chase that began in Orange County.

Two San Diego police officers and four California Highway Patrol personnel opened fire on 30-year-old Christopher Ulmer about 1:15 a.m. Oct. 4 following the roughly 90-minute pursuit, which ended when the Whittier resident pulled over on the freeway near Otay Valley Regional Park in Chula Vista.

Images released by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department this afternoon -- video clips recorded by officers' uniform-worn cameras and the crew of a police helicopter circling overhead -- show Ulmer get out of his car on the freeway with a dark-colored object in his right hand.

When Ulmer rose that extended arm in the direction of the nearby phalanx of law enforcement personnel taking cover behind their stationary cruisers, a half-dozen officers, fearing he had a firearm, unleashed a fusillade of gunfire, sending Ulmer collapsing onto the roadway, sheriff's officials said.

Ulmer then got up and again appeared to raise his arm, prompting a second burst of gunfire. Ulmer then fell a second and final time. He was pronounced dead in a hospital a short time later.

Among the new materials about the case made public this afternoon, the Sheriff's Department included a photo of what Ulmer was clutching at the time of his death -- a black, roughly rectangular object with rounded sides and edges, somewhat resembling a case for eyeglasses. The county agency, which is investigating the case due to the involvement of CHP and SDPD personnel in the shooting, did not identify the item, which was found underneath the mortally wounded man.

The road chase that led to the shooting began shortly after 11:30 a.m. Oct. 3, when Santa Ana police tried to pull Ulmer over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. He refused to yield, fleeing to the south on Interstate 5 into San Diego County, where he eventually merged onto I-805 before stopping on the freeway in the area of Orange Avenue.

Ulmer remained in his car for a few minutes, then started driving off to the south again on the closed freeway. At that point, a CHP officer employed a so-called PIT -- pursuit intervention technique -- maneuver, using the front of the cruiser to spin Ulmer's car around, leaving it halted and facing the contingent of officers just to the north. Moments later, Ulmer got out of his car and raised his arm in their direction, unleashing the lethal hail of police gunfire.

The personnel who opened fire on Ulmer have been placed on administrative leave pending completion of investigations into their use of deadly force in the case.

Photo: Getty Images

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