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Sheriff details how innocent bystander was struck during police shootout

Updated Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 | 5:40 p.m.

An innocent bystander was shot and critically wounded when Metro Police exchanged gunfire Friday with a man wanted in connection with the shooting of his girlfriend, Sheriff Doug Gillespie said today.

The innocent man, who was with a woman, was only trying to sell a car that afternoon, and Roberto Torres was just a potential buyer. They met at an apartment complex in the 4000 block of Pennwood Avenue, near Clark High School.

It seemed like a normal transaction. What they might not have known, however, was that Torres was wanted for shooting his girlfriend in the face earlier that week.

“He was simply there to sell a vehicle to the suspect, who had responded to an advertisement,” Gillespie said.

Two officers confronted Torres as he was meeting with the two bystanders. Torres pulled out a handgun and fired at the officers.

Gillespie said the officers — Joseph Parra, 34, and Scott Thomas, 50 — had no other choice but to defend themselves. Parra and Thomas responded by firing seven shots, Gillespie said. What started as a simple car sale had turned into a deadly shootout with the two bystanders in the middle of it all.

Torres, 33, was shot several times and killed. The innocent man was struck in the left shoulder and remains hospitalized. Gillespie said the investigation indicated that the bystander was likely struck by an officer’s bullet.

The woman suffered a minor gunshot wound and was treated at the scene, police said. It was unclear if she was struck by police gunfire.

“It was not the officers' intention to harm an innocent bystander, but this incident does underscore the dynamics that officers see on the streets,” Gillespie said. “At times our officers run into criminals that are violent, they are well armed and are willing to engage police in combat situations.”

Torres was suspected of shooting his girlfriend in the face at close range earlier last week, Metro Police Capt. Chris Jones has said.

The shooting is the third officer-involved shooting of the year, and the first officer-involved fatality, Gillespie said. In all three cases, Gillespie said the suspects initiated the shooting.

Officers Parra and Thomas remain on paid administrative leave while the shooting is investigated.

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