Paradise officer charged

The cop who shot and killed a drunken driver faces five years in jail

Patrick Feaster sat alone in Butte County Superior Court Wednesday morning (Feb. 10), while members of the media set up cameras and court staff got ready for the day. When his name was called, Feaster and his lawyer stood to be introduced. He was scheduled for arraignment—the former Paradise Police officer is charged with involuntary manslaughter while armed with a firearm—but he requested a postponement of two weeks, which Judge James F. Reilley approved.

Feaster faces up to five years in jail for killing Andrew Thomas, the drunken driver he pursued the night of Nov. 25 coming out of the Canteena bar parking lot in Paradise and shot in the neck after Thomas’ SUV flipped. Autopsy results, released earlier this week, confirmed that the gunshot wound led to Thomas’ death, but District Attorney Mike Ramsey said his initial ruling that Feaster had shot Thomas unintentionally stands, hence the involuntary manslaughter charge.

The night before Thanksgiving, Feaster followed Thomas, who was in an SUV with his estranged wife, Darien Ehorn, as he turned off the Skyway, where the Canteena—now closed—is located, onto Pearson Road. At the corner of Pearson and Black Olive Drive, the SUV, going upward of 50 mph, flipped over, ejecting Ehorn and landing on its side.

Upon getting out of his patrol car, Feaster approached the SUV as Thomas attempted to exit the vehicle by the passenger-side window. Feaster then pulled out his gun, aimed at Thomas, and pulled the trigger. Thomas immediately fell back into the vehicle.

All of this was caught on Feaster’s dashcam video—which is not equipped with audio—and released to the media in December following an investigation by the Officer Involved Shooting/Critical Incident Response Team. What drew the ire of many community members was that the team, represented by Ramsey, determined that Feaster had acted negligently but had not broken any law. If Thomas had died, Ramsey told a room full of reporters and law enforcement officers Dec. 10, then Feaster might face involuntary manslaughter charges.

The public also was outraged by the events that followed the shooting, which were caught on video and audio by lapel cameras worn by the two officers who arrived as backup on the scene. In those videos, for 11 minutes, Feaster ignores Thomas’ assertion that he’d shot him. Instead, Feaster scans the ground for a shell casing while the other officers tend to Ehorn, who was dying on the pavement, and Thomas, who was slumped inside the SUV. Finally, with paramedics on the scene, Feaster admits he had an “AD”—an accidental discharge—and may indeed have shot Thomas.

Everything changed when Thomas died on Dec. 19. The immediate cause, Ramsey said this week, was septic shock, which he developed while at Enloe Medical Center. He was being treated following the gunshot wound that left him paralyzed.

“Under the law that we deal with, we ask: Was the gunshot wound the proximate cause of his death? Was there any other cause of death that came about absent that gunshot wound?” Ramsey explained by phone. “The immediate cause was the infection, but he wouldn’t have been in the hospital if it hadn’t been for the gunshot wound.”

Ramsey said he also had an independent investigator review the case. That investigator found additional evidence in the video footage to support an involuntary manslaughter charge. He added that he hopes to keep the case here in Butte County.

Feaster underwent an internal affairs investigation, and on Monday, Ramsey confirmed that Feaster, whose family includes longtime Chico Unified School District employee Bob Feaster (his father) and politically connected former Butte County Supervisor Jane Dolan (his aunt), was no longer an officer of the law. Details of that investigation were not released, with one exception: “[The] lack of notification was a factor in Feaster’s administrative personnel action which led to the termination of his employment with Paradise Police,” a DA’s Office press release reads.