Teen shot by U.C. Merced Police officer talks to Action News

MERCED, Calif.

A sheriff's office report shows a U.C. Merced Police officer was hit by a car, and then fired at that vehicle. But what's not clear is if the driver hit the officer on purpose, and whether or not the shooting was intentional.

Daniel Pimentel is one of several young people who parked near Lake Yosemite in the early morning hours of July 24th. He says they were listening to music when a U.C. Merced Police officer started driving toward them. So Pimentel got into the back seat of one of the cars to leave. He says the driver was going less than ten miles per hour -- and was blinded by the bright lights on Officer Maria Botwright-Soto's car -- when he accidentally hit her.

Pimentel said, "He was barely going because we were right in front of the cop car so we were like boom, and then she got hit."

Pimentel says he immediately heard a gunshot and felt a burning sensation in his back. Pictures obtained by Action News show the bullet traveled through the car's taillight and lodged in the backseat. Pimentel says the impact left this mark on his back.

"She didn't even give us a chance to stop before she shot, and that's what made the driver really drive off," said Pimentel. "He was real scared and panicking. All of us were scared."

According to this sheriff's office report, when deputies arrived at the scene Officer Botwright-Soto told them she ordered the car to stop, but it kept going. She said it hit her in the leg at upwards of 25 miles per hour, knocking her down. A sergeant at the scene wrote quote, "She told me something to the effect of she was able to get a shot off as the vehicle passed her." But during an interview with her attorney present the next day, the officer claimed the shot "went off" unintentionally.

Chief Rita Spaur said, "That will come up in the internal investigation."

U.C. Merced Police Chief Rita Spaur says Botwright-Soto is an excellent officer, who is doing administrative work pending the results of an internal investigation. She also points out her officer was alone in the dark at the time of the shooting.

Chief Rita Spaur said, "It's often split second decisions that they have to make to protect others and themselves."

Now Pimentel says he's considering filing a lawsuit because he believes it's a miracle he wasn't seriously hurt, or killed.

"Cause my dad got murdered getting shot in the back," said Pimentel. "Yeah, and I kind of think it was my dad that stopped the bullet."

The Merced County District Attorney's office has decided not to file any criminal charges against anyone involved in this case.

The DA says it's unlikely any claims could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt because of inconsistent statements by witnesses, and the officer.

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