The preliminary examination of a man accused of attempting to murder a Vallejo police officer began Tuesday.
The hearing, which was scheduled to last for two days, is meant to determine whether enough evidence exists to take the case to trial. But many questions Tuesday focused more on the actions of Officer Brad Kim than on Jamazea Kittell, who allegedly tried to kill him.
Under questioning from Public Defender Nick Filloy, Kim testified that he was outnumbered and in fear for his safety from the moment he arrived at a Springs Road gas station around 4:12 a.m. June 27. Kim said he shot Kittell in an attempt to stop the suspect from running him over and potentially killing him – but expressed uncertainty over how a bullet hole appeared in one of the rear doors of Kittell’s vehicle.
Kim also testified that one of his own vehicle’s cameras failed to activate that morning because of a technical malfunction.
Judge Robert Bowers frowned deeply and sustained several objections to Filloy’s flurry of questions. Kittell, who received stitches around his nostrils after the incident, watched the proceedings wearing a jail uniform and green beanie.
Body camera footage uploaded by the Vallejo Police Department shows Kim arriving at the gas station in question and scrambling out of his squad car. The officer arrived alone and said he witnessed “at least three to four people” fleeing the business.
“I was more focused on safety, on fears of some kind of retaliation or some type of action from the group to ensure that they got away,” Kim told the court.
Spotting a Dodge Charger, which is faster than Kim’s own Ford Explorer, the officer said his initial plan was to park his vehicle bumper to bumper with the car to prevent anyone from driving off. But out of concern for the safety of suspects running in front of him, Kim said he screeched to a stop about six feet away from the Charger.
Officer Brad Kim makes a gun with his fingers as he talks about firing his weapon from the hood of the car as he gives testimony in the preliminary hearing of Jamazea Kittell. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)
Then, hoping to catch suspects but also worried about being “a sitting duck” who could be shot if he remained in his vehicle, Kim jumped out and drew his firearm.
“The whole purpose of being a police officer isn’t to write a whole bunch of reports on your 10, 12 hour shifts,” the officer testified. “It’s so that you can catch bad guys doing bad things to good people.”
Kim spotted a suspect later identified as Kittell getting into the Charger and he ran in front of the car.
“As I was going around,” he testified, “I felt the vehicle lunge toward me.”
Kim shot Kittell through the car’s windshield in the “split second” between Kim’s torso collapsing onto the hood of the vehicle and him falling onto the ground. “The only thing I thought of was, ‘I need to stop the driver from operating the vehicle,” he said.
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But photos of the Dodge Charger reveal two bullet holes: One in the windshield and another in the driver’s side passenger door.
“As soon as I became aware that the car was no longer a great threat, I stopped firing,” Kim testified. Under questioning he later added, “The driver’s side rear door may have been mine. I’m not really sure.”
The officer said one of the car’s rear windows was covered with a plastic bag, which could mean the vehicle had been in another shooting.
Kim testified to two technical malfunctions the morning of the incident – one of which prevented him from broadcasting that there had been an officer-involved shooting, and the other of which stopped one of his vehicle’s cameras from working properly.
He said he believed he’d broadcasted word of the shooting until the watch commander seemed surprised when he mentioned it later that morning. The problem with the camera, meanwhile, reportedly happened because Kim flipped a switch too quickly.
“I guess they installed it in a way that didn’t work. I’m not really sure,” he said.
Kittell’s preliminary examination will continue Oct. 3.
This article has been updated to reflect the fact that the second day of Kittell’s preliminary examination was postponed to October.