District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis made the announcement Tuesday in connection with the March 15 shooting involving Officer Frank White, 28. He was charged with one felony count of gross negligent discharge of a firearm with two enhancements for great bodily injury and one misdemeanor count of exhibiting a firearm. The charges carry a maximum sentence of nine years in prison.White surrendered to authorities in Vista and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He came to court in a suit with his wife by his side. White maintains that he did nothing wrong in the apparent road-rage incident. He is not in custody and has been released on his own recognizance.
White was driving his personal car when he and Rachel Silva nearly collided in Oceanside. Witnesses say Silva responded aggressively, tailing White and his wife to a parking lot at a Lowe’s Home Improvement Store.
White told investigators that he fired after Silva backed up, sideswiping his car. He said he did not see her son in the car. White fired five shots into Rachel Silva’s car, striking her twice in the arm and her son once in the knee.
“Based on the evidence and the law, these charges are appropriate,” said Dumanis, who declined to answer questions at a brief news conference.
White’s attorney, Richard Pinkard told NBC 7/39 his client did nothing wrong.
“At this point, based on statements that have been provided to us, our client’s conduct as reasonable under the circumstances. Obviously that’s the pivotal issue in this controversy,” he said.
According to search warrants filed in the case, White said he displayed his handgun but only began shooting after Silva sideswiped his SUV as she reversed past him. White’s wife, a police dispatcher, was in the car.
The San Diego police officer was put on paid administrative leave after the shooting. The district attorney’s office did mention that this is only the second time in more than 20 years that an officer has been charged in an officer-involved shooting.
Silva’s attorney said he was satisfied with the charges.
Tests showed Silva had a blood-alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit. The 27-year-old pleaded not guilty this month to felony child endangerment. Silva — who has two drunken driving convictions from last year — faces up to six years in state prison. Lawyers for her son filed a complaint in federal court in May claiming police were inadequately screened, trained and disciplined.
A readiness hearing in White’s case will be held on Aug. 26. The preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 17.