Deputy saw woman ‘smiling’ during chase into Ripon that ended in deadly shooting

Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Wall leaves court

Wall is accused of voluntary manslaughter in Evin Olsen Yadegar’s death. Wall is facing the felony charge in San Joaquin County because he shot the woman as the pursuit continued into Ripon.
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Wall is accused of voluntary manslaughter in Evin Olsen Yadegar’s death. Wall is facing the felony charge in San Joaquin County because he shot the woman as the pursuit continued into Ripon.

Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Victorino said another deputy reported Evin Olsen Yadegar was acting crazy. He heard that description on his patrol vehicle’s radio as he joined a pursuit that started in Salida.

Victorino said he expected to find the suspect evading the deputies “going insane, thrashing around,” but he didn’t see that when he saw Yadegar in her car for the first time.

“She was smiling and looking aimlessly around,” Victorino testified in San Joaquin Superior Court on Thursday.

A forensic pathologist last week testified that Yadegar had bipolar one disorder, which is described as episodes of extreme moods, particularly mania.

The deputy said he thought at the time that Yadegar might be laughing, because of her odd demeanor during that first encounter. The pursuit continued into Ripon, where she stopped her Volkswagen Jetta and authorities gathered around her car.

Video footage from a Ripon police patrol car dashboard camera shows Yadegar backing up her car a few feet before moving forward to go around Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Wall’s vehicle that had blocked her Volkswagen. Wall then shot Yadegar as she was moving the car forward again.

Wall is accused of voluntary manslaughter in Yadegar’s death.

Testimony continued Thursday in a preliminary hearing to determine whether there’s enough evidence for Wall to stand trial.

The deadly shooting occurred in the early hours of Feb. 26, 2017. The incident began when Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputies responded to a call at the Hampton Inn & Suites in the 4900 block of Sisk Road in Salida.

A security guard reported that a woman had begun an argument and a physical confrontation with him. A deputy arrived at the hotel and saw Yadegar’s vehicle leaving the area. Then, the pursuit began.

The chase headed north on Highway 99 into San Joaquin County, before exiting the freeway in Ripon, heading south on South Manley Road and stopping near Tornell Circle.

Victorino testified that Yadegar’s car reached a speed of 35 mph while on the freeway. He said Yadegar’s car didn’t go any faster than that before the chase ended.

When the chase moved from the freeway onto Manley Road, Yadegar’s car was moving about 20 to 30 mph. Its tires had been flattened by a deputy’s deployed spike strip, but Victorino said there were no sparks coming from the wheels as Yadegar continued to evade authorities.

After the Volkswagen stopped near Tornell Circle, the deputies and a Ripon police officer got out of their vehicles and approached Yadager’s car. Victorino approached the car with his canine partner, “Kuma.”

The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office has released dashboard video of the shooting of Evin Olsen Yadegar by Stanislaus County Sheriff's deputy Justin Wall in 2017. Wall faces manslaughter charges.

Victorino testified that he wasn’t surprised to see Wall park his vehicle in front of Yadegar’s car, because the deputies had already exhausted all their abilities to stop the Volkswagen.

“He was attempting to box her in to prevent this from going any further,” Victorino said on the witness stand.

He said Sheriff’s Department policy doesn’t allow deputies to use a Pursuit Intervention Technique, commonly known as a PIT maneuver. Authorities are trained to use PIT maneuvers to safely force an evading vehicle to stop.

Victorino testified that deputies asked for Ripon police’s help in the case, in part, because Ripon police policy does allow the use of PIT maneuvers. A Ripon police detective in the lead chase position in Ripon has testified that he wasn’t allowed to use a PIT maneuver, because he wasn’t trained to do so.

The deputies repeatedly ordered Yadegar to get out of the car. Victorino testified he didn’t remember whether anyone ordered Yadegar to turn off her engine, even though he said it’s one of the standard demands deputies are trained to make during such car stops.

Hanibal and Evin Yadegar Courtesy of Hanibal Yadegar

Victorino said the deputies didn’t create a plan or direct each other as they approached Yadager’s car. He said the deputies know how to get into position and fulfill their roles.

“We train to figure out that stuff on your own in a rapidly evolving situation,” Victorino testified.

At one point, another deputy used his baton to break the driver’s side window. Victorino said in the court that he saw Yadegar react to the deputy breaking the window; she leaned over to her right before looking back toward the shattered window.

Wall’s preliminary hearing could end Friday, but the testimony could continue into next week before Superior Court Judge Xapuri Villapudua issues her ruling.

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Rosalio Ahumada writes news stories about criminal court cases in Stanislaus County for The Modesto Bee, issues related to immigration and immigrant communities and breaking news related to crime and public safety. From time to time, he covers the Modesto City Council meetings. He has worked as a news reporter in the Northern San Joaquin Valley since 2004.