The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday released video footage in which more than a dozen officers and deputies fired hundreds of gunshots at a driver who was apparently trying to escape arrest by ramming vehicles in a fast food drive-thru lane.
Several volleys of dozens of gunshots were fired by law enforcement officers shortly after a truck driven by Dennis McHugh struck a civilian vehicle in a Del Taco drive-thru in Beaumont, knocking a Banning police officer off an embankment and forcing the car to land on top of him, according to body-worn camera and helicopter footage contained in the critical-incident video.
McHugh, a 44-year-old Glendora resident, was the subject of an ongoing investigation into allegations of domestic violence, assault with a deadly weapon and kidnapping, along with an open warrant for an alleged assault case in Los Angeles County, Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said in the video.
Shortly after 1 a.m. on Dec. 31, a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department helicopter spotted McHugh’s vehicle in the 400 block of E. 4th Street in Beaumont, Bianco said. Authorities previously indicated that McHugh was believed to have been involved in a suspected domestic-violence dispute in the Woodcrest area hours earlier.
Sheriff’s deputies were joined by officers from the Beaumont and Banning police departments, as well as the California Highway Patrol, who responded to the scene to assist in the arrest.
The video footage released by the sheriff’s department begins with deputies and officers ordering McHugh to turn off his truck and exit the vehicle. Bianco said McHugh ignored their commands, and body-worn camera footage showed his truck ramming into multiple patrol vehicles – and at least one civilian vehicle – in an apparent attempt to escape.
“Back out of the way, everyone out of the way, he’s ramming cars,” an officer can be heard yelling on the video, as at least one civilian can be seen scrambling for safety.
The Banning officer is heard warning other officers to jump over a rail in case McHugh backed up when his truck accelerated forward, knocking a car and the officer off the embankment. A first volley of gunshots can be heard as a car rolls on top of the officer.
A second volley of gunshots are heard as McHugh’s truck drives down the embankment, followed by a third as officers run to assist the Banning officer trapped under the car.
A special enforcement team from the sheriff’s department used an armored rescue vehicle to get the trapped officer out from under the vehicle. They discovered McHugh dead in his vehicle, the sheriff said.
The injured officer was hospitalized but reportedly expected to make a full recovery.
Bianco in an interview on Tuesday confirmed that there were at least 300 shots fired from around 13 officers and deputies. The sheriff acknowledged that “it’s easy for you and I to say it’s a lot of rounds,” but added that individual officers can be focused on ending what they see as a threat, rather than on the actions of other law enforcement officers.
“When you have that many people who are shooting, you are not necessarily thinking about what the others are doing, you are thinking about what you perceive is happening,” he said.
Staff writer Brian Rokos contributed to this report.