Bakersfield man with rifle claims he was 'testing' police when they shot him

Jose Vaca, 29, said he had a theory he wanted to test

BAKERSFIELD, CALIFORNIA - A Bakersfield man says he was "testing" police during a traffic stop when he was shot last week after getting out of his vehicle with a rifle.

Jose Vaca, 29, is lucky to be alive after he was pulled over while driving with a friend in east Bakersfield on Dec. 19. He got out of the car holding a rifle -- startling the police officers who opened fire.

Vaca said later that he never planned to shoot the officers, but that he wanted to "test a theory" he had about police brutality.

Inside his car he had a rifle he had bought at a flea market, he said. He wasn't legally allowed to have the weapon.

"I exit my vehicle. I come to the front of the police vehicle, and I put my butt of the rifle on the floor and I just like, put my hand up," Vaca said.

Without warning, he said, the officer now identified as Christian Hernandez, opened fire.

"Soon as I hit the ground, I just attempted to play dead, and they fired a few more shots at me from the back as I was lying on the ground," Vaca said.

He said he was shot 12 times with three bullets passing right through his body. He was transported to an area hospital.

"It's a blessing I am alive," Vaca said.

Vaca claims he had no intention of shooting the officers, and he dismissed the notion that he was trying to commit suicide.

"I told my friend one day that I wanted her to believe all police officers are good," he said.

He said he had that conversation months ago, and he thought the traffic stop was the perfect opportunity to prove his point.

"First thing that came to my mind, is I'm already going to get pulled over. I know they're most likely going to take me in, but I'm going to need to try my theory real quick and see that it's true so she can believe there is good officers in the world."

Looking back, however, he realizes that the experiment was a bad idea.

"Completely bad," Vaca said about how his "experiment" went. "Completely bad; never again."

But does he think they were good cops?

"Yeah. [Because] they didn't know what to expect," he said.

Vaca is being held on $582,600 bail on seven felony charges and four misdemeanor charges. His passenger, Rogelio Machuca, 27, was booked on charges of resisting arrest.

Officer Hernandez, who has been with the Bakersfield Police Department since July 2013, was placed on routine administrative leave pending review by the Critical Incident Review Board, the Police Department said.

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