The Garden Grove Police Department has discovered that the locking mechanism of the Plexiglas partition in a patrol car failed on Feb. 13, allowing a man in the car’s backseat to access a semi-automatic rifle and fire one shot.
Because the partition was defective, the man was able to reach from the backseat into the front of the car to “disengage the rifle from its locked position in the front passenger compartment,” stated Lt. Carl Whitney, public information officer for the Garden Grove Police Department.
“As a result of this incident every Garden Grove Police car was inspected and corrective measures have been taken, including review of our policies and procedures,” Whitney stated.
Garden Grove resident Stephen Matthews, 33, was charged on Feb. 15 with five felony counts, including assault with a firearm on a peace officer, and one misdemeanor count of resisting a peace officer, the Orange County District Attorney’s office stated, and Matthews is also “accused of using the rear end of the rifle to smash the in-car computer.”
An Orange County Mental Health worker had requested police assistance at Morningside Recovery, a drug and alcohol treatment facility, while they evaluated Matthews.
When Matthews reached into the front of the car he was not handcuffed or under arrest. He was sitting in the patrol car awaiting an ambulance that would take him to another facility for further evaluation, officials said.
Officers asked him to put the weapon down, Whitney stated, but the man instead fired one round through the front windshield.
Matthews did not respond to officers’ commands or attempt to negotiate, and the SWAT team and crisis negotiators arrived, including three armored vehicles, to Morningside Recovery at 9842 13th Street in Garden Grove.
No shots were fired by officers during the incident, and no one was injured.
After hours of negotiations, Matthews surrendered at 12:41 a.m. and was taken into police custody, Whitney stated.