— -- Authorities said today it was by the "grace of God" that an officer and civilian involved in an early-morning high-speed chase recently that quickly erupted in gunfire had survived.
"By the grace of God, this officer and this civilian ride-along are with us today," Chief of Police Steve Frazier said today at a news conference, "because the individuals that they were trying to stop clearly [had] other designs."
He said around 4:30 a.m. Sunday, Officer Julian Garcia and a civilian woman were riding in a police cruiser when Garcia attempted to pull over a motorist for a busted headlight in Madera, California.
Frazier said the woman, who asked not to be identified, was a member of the city's Citizen Police Academy. The program was designed to develop a working relationship with the community.
The officer, Garcia, was "effectively a brand new officer" who had completed field training only two weeks ago.
"There was nothing suspicious about the vehicle upon initially [stopping] it with the lights," Frazier said. "Everything appeared fairly normal."
Police dashcam footage showed Garcia's police cruiser trying to pull over a silver Mazda. Within seconds of the driver's failure to yield to police orders, the unidentified woman's ride-along had escalated into a full pursuit.
The woman could be heard screaming as the harrowing scene unfolded in front of her. At one point, she pleaded with the police officer to stop the chase.
Right after the Mazda took a turn, gunfire could be seen and heard on the dashcam video. Frazier said that 14 rounds had been fired from the vehicle -- two of them struck the cruiser's window, one hit the cruiser's right rear tire and another entered a home's bedroom and landed in a pile of clothes.
After the firefight disabled the patrol car, the suspects exited their vehicle and escaped on foot. Today, Frazier said police had no one in custody but that had many leads.
"We know there were two people in the vehicle," he said.
The officer survived the incident, as did the civilian, who suffered minor cuts from broken glass. Photos of the aftermath show the patrol car's shattered windows and a gun found in the Mazda.