Many of us remember the natural gas explosion that killed 8 people and ravaged 38 homes in San Bruno in September of 2010. What many people may not know is that when a motorcyclist, 36-year-old Paul Lee, drove down to see the spectacle, he would be arrested on 3 felony counts: battery of an officer, assault on an officer, and evading the police (CA Penal Code §243(b) & §243(c)(2)).
It seems that local law enforcement officials who asked them what they were doing at the site, and for some identification, stopped Lee and his girlfriend. When Lee began to drive away, one of the officers took hold of his jacket, ended up being dragged for a few feet. The officer’s foot was also momentarily crushed by one of the wheels of the vehicle. Lee continued on and a highway chase ensued – ending with Lee eventually turning himself over to police. Lee, who has only one spot on his past record, was on still on parole for an incident occurring in 2005. The District Attorney in the case (Stave Wagstaffe) even admits that he believes that fear drove Lee to flee from the scene.
In the state of California, any time that a “protected person” (such as a doctor, nurse, firefighter, or police officer) has been injured due to battery, the charges are automatically elevated to “aggravated battery” status, increasing the fine to $10,000 maximum, jail time to 16 months-3 years, and a “strike” on your record. In order to prove that Lee is guilty, prosecutors must be able to show that the officer in question sustained an injury that would prevent him from continuing his normal duties or from engaging in normal physical activity.