Shots fired outside bar; cop arrested APD officer charged with shooting at fleeing truck after altercation in Marietta http://www.ajc.com/obits/content/metro/cobb/stories/2007/10/14/apd_1015.html By STEVE VISSER The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Published on: 10/15/07 An Atlanta police officer has been arrested and charged with shooting at a college student and his girlfriend after an argument in a Marietta bar. Marietta police said they charged Officer Steve Iman, 27, a four-year veteran of the Atlanta Police Department, with aggravated assault for allegedly shooting at Chris Chvala, a 23-year-old Georgia State University student, and Chvala's girlfriend early Friday morning. If convicted of the felony charge, Iman could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, authorities said. Atlanta police suspended four officers who were with Iman and allegedly fled the incident scene and did not report the shooting to superiors until confronted by the department. Iman is accused of shooting at Chvala's Ranger pickup truck as the man was fleeing after a verbal confrontation with the officers, according to police reports. Two bullets shattered the truck's back window, said Peter Chvala, the victim's father. "If his girlfriend had been sitting up, she would have gotten one right in the head," the elder Chvala said Sunday. "He pushed his girlfriend onto the floor when he heard the shooting and kept going. He was scared for his life." Neither Chris Chvala, of Marietta, nor his girlfriend was wounded. The man's father declined to give the woman's name, which was absent from police reports. On Sunday, a clearly disappointed Atlanta Deputy Chief Pete Andresen, who oversees the uniform division, called the shooting, arrest and suspensions a setback for a department he had hoped was beginning to recover from a police-shooting scandal and cover-up involving the killing of a 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston in a botched narcotics raid last November. "We are doing our utmost to regain the trust of the community," Andresen said. "They will be held accountable, because all officers must be beyond reproach." Andresen spoke at a news conference called by the Marietta police and emphasized that Atlanta officials were "trying to create a professional department," especially after being rocked by the Johnston killing. Two officers pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and to federal charges stemming from that incident. Other officers have been disciplined for having had a part in the raid or the officers' fictitious cover story that said drugs had been bought at the house and Johnston had fired the first shot. The scandal prompted Police Chief Richard Pennington to disband and replace the narcotics unit. Last week's shooting happened about 2:20 a.m. Friday at Winston's Food & Spirits on Sandy Plains Road, police said. Marietta police responding to a 911 call said they interviewed a witness, Matthew DeMartinis, who told them he was Chris Chvala's former roommate, DeMartinis told investigators that Chvala had gotten into an argument with some men other witnesses believed were off-duty Atlanta police officers. DeMartinis said that after bar management asked the men to leave, the argument continued in the parking lot, where Chvala kicked one of the officers' cars, according to Marietta police reports. Chvala told Marietta investigators that the argument broke out because the officers suspected him of hitting on one two women who were partying with the officers, police said. "The victim stated that he then tried to leave in his truck and the suspect jumped on the hood," the police report said. "The victim stated that he then stepped on the gas to get away and the suspect rolled off the truck and the suspect and his friends started running after his truck and shot at his truck." Besides the two bullets through the rear window of the Ranger, one of which lodged in the front windshield, at least one other bullet struck the truck, police said. Iman was the only officer who shot at the vehicle, firing four times, and the bullets came from his department-issued .40 caliber Glock, said Marietta police Sgt. Brian Marshall, one of the investigators in the case. Iman and some witnesses said Chvala tried to run Iman over as the motorist was leaving the parking lot, but other witnesses supported Chvala's version that Iman jumped on the hood of the truck and Chvala accelerated to escape, Marshall said. Iman's shooting at the truck couldn't be interpreted as self-defense, Marshall said. "Shooting at a car that is leaving, whether it hit you or not, is aggravated assault," said Marshall, who noted that the investigation found no reason to levy any charges against Chvala. An unnamed Cobb County police officer who was socializing with the Atlanta officers also fired his gun, Marshall said, but the investigation determined that the gun went off accidentally. The officer said he had automatically pulled the weapon when he heard the shots, not to fire at the pickup, Marshall said. "He was running in the parking lot and fell and discharged his weapon into the ground," Marshall said. Marshall declined to name the Cobb County officer. He said the Cobb Police Department had been invited to send a representative to the news conference but did not do so. Cobb police spokeswoman Cassie Reece said later that the Cobb officer would face a departmental investigation. Andresen noted that fleeing a shooting scene and not reporting the incident to superiors could warrant serious sanctions â€” and possibly criminal charges â€” against the four Atlanta officers. The officers face no charges from Marietta police. "If they are not criminally charged, they can be fired," Andresen said. Three of the Atlanta officers suspended from duty are Matthew Fuqua, 26; Kevin Patton, 26; and Ryan Sinks, 26, police said. Until last week, neither they nor Iman had any serious black marks against them in the department. The fourth suspended officer, Adam Plummer, 28, was the subject of a departmental investigation stemming from a controversial fatal shooting that happened in 2006, three days after the incident involving Kathryn Johnston. On Sunday, police spokesman Judy Pal said the investigation found Plummer had acted correctly. That case, technically still open because a civilian review board has not yet signed off on it, involved Plummer and another investigator killing a man who they said fired at them after robbing an East Atlanta post office. "It was a good shoot," Pal said. "It has been exonerated by the chief." Even the "good shoot," however, undermined public trust. Randy Heath, owner of Heath Care Center, said the bullets tore through his waiting room. "I just want somebody to know how careless that was," Heath told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in November. On Sunday, Peter Chvala said the Marietta shooting incident left him and his son shaken. "I'm scared to death, having my son shot at," he said. "That is something you only read about in the paper. You don't think about it happening to you or your family."