However, a dash cam video shows the SUV veered left as if to avoid striking them.
It also shows the two Yellowstone County sheriff’s deputies walking towards the approaching vehicle with their rifles drawn, opening fire as the vehicle veered left and continuing to fire after the SUV was nowhere in their path.
“I told him to stop, he hit the gas and came right at us,” one deputy can be heard telling a supervisor who later arrived on the scene.
Nevertheless, a jury on Wednesday declared the shooting justified, clearing Jason Robinson and Christopher Rudolph, who had resigned from the department five days after the January 8, 2015 incident.
The deputies fired for five seconds. Use-of-force expert and former FBI special Agent Brian Kensel said the deputies fired a total of 54 projectiles in that span.
In the days after the shooting, the deputies told investigators they felt threatened by the Explorer coming toward them.
Robinson testified Wednesday the angle of the patrol car’s dash-cam shows a distorted perception of the incident.
Robinson had tears in his eyes as he described the incident. He said he saw snow kick off the Explorer’s back tires, believing it was accelerating.
“I saw the front wheels turn in my direction,” Robinson said. “At that point, I knew he didn’t care he was going through me and he was going to kill me.”
Robinson said he fired 18 rounds from his AR-15.
Two of those rounds hit Simpson, one of them through the Explorer’s back window and into the back of Simpson’s head.
The man killed, Loren Simpson, had stolen the vehicle a day earlier. His family has filed a civil suit and believe that court case will rule in their favor.