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Iowa officer criticized for shooting van tire

Published: Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 10:39 a.m. CDT

DES MOINES (AP) — A Des Moines police officer is facing sanctions after department officials determined he acted improperly when he shot out a van tire during an October pursuit.

Sgt. Jason Halifax said Sgt. Greg Wessels’ actions violated the department’s policy on using deadly force.

Wessels was one of several officers who helped apprehend a 31-year-old man who was accused of choking his girlfriend and attacking her with a hammer. When the assault happened in an east Des Moines parking lot, two men heard the victim screaming and intervened to pull her out of the man’s truck.

Police did not catch up to the suspect until he was spotted driving by the victim’s home two days later. The suspect refused to pull over and fled.

Wessels arrived in the middle of the pursuit. As officers were trying to apprehend the suspect, he accelerated and Wessels shot out one of the rear tires of the suspect’s vehicle.

The suspect was arrested a few blocks later.

But Halifax said police department rules only allow officers to fire their guns when they feel their lives or someone else’s life is in danger or when officers believe they are facing serious injury.

Wessels remains on duty while commanders decide what punishment to impose.