Video Is Released of 1st Fatal NYPD Shooting Since Bodycams - NECN
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Video Is Released of 1st Fatal NYPD Shooting Since Bodycams

"Do you wanna die?" one officer says as he demands the man drop his knife

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    The NYPD released footage of the first deadly shooting captured on official department body cameras. Ray Villeda reports. (Published Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017)

    The NYPD released footage Thursday of the first deadly shooting captured on official department body cameras. 

    At a news conference at Police Plaza, NYPD Chief of Department Carlos Gomez said the video is a compilation of four separate videos recorded by four individual officers who responded to a Bronx apartment on Sept. 6. 

    The 16-minute video begins as two of the officers enter a bedroom after being called to a building on Pratt Avenue in Wakefield by a landlord who was concerned he hadn't seen his tenant, 31-year-old Miguel Richards. 

    When the landlord opened the door to Richards' apartment, the two responding officers found him with a knife in one hand and his other hand behind his back, according to Gomez.

    Richards can be seen standing in a corner of the room, behind a bed and wearing glasses, as the officers point a flashlight and handgun at him. At one point he kneels on the bed. He never speaks. 

    Throughout the video, the officers repeatedly ask Richards to drop the knife and show his hands. 

    "Do you hear me? Put that knife down, you hear me?" one officer says towards the beginning of the video. 

    A friend of Richards enters a few minutes into the video. He echoes the demands of officers, telling him to put his hands up and drop the weapon. 

    "Put the knife down, dude. I'm begging you brother. I'm begging you. Please put the knife down," the friend says. "You're running out of time." 

    The officers then shout to Richards, whose right hand still behind his back.

    "What's in your other hand? What's in your other hand?" one officer says. He tells Richards he's at risk of getting shot if he doesn't show his other hand.

    "Let me see your other hand. Do you wanna die?" one officer says. "I don't want to shoot you, but I will if you come at me with that knife, do you hear me?" 

    Gomez said the officers eventually spotted a gun, later determined to be a toy with a laser on it, in Richards' other hand. An officer yells: "That's a gun, dude. Drop that gun. Drop that gun." 

    "I'm not telling you again. Drop that gun and drop that knife," he says. 

    About a minute later, a third officer arrives with a stun gun and walks into the bedroom towards Richards. A red dot, presumably the laser, can be seen emanating from one of Richards' hands as he begins to raise them, Gomez said.

    The third officer raises his stun gun and enters the bedroom. Richards moves towards the officers and the first two officers open fire. Several loud shots can be heard before Richards drops to the floor. 

    The officers fired a total of 16 times, Gomez said; one of them fired nine shots and the other seven.

    Gomez said the officers told Richards to drop the knife 44 times and told him to drop the gun six times. The officers also told him to show his hands 52 times, Gomez said. 

    Richards' friend pleaded with him to show his hands 72 times and to drop the knife 44 times, according to Gomez. 

    "That's a lot of warnings by both the uniform officers, as well as the friend that was at the scene," Gomez said. 

    The first officer has 11 years of experience on the force and the second officer has 3 1/2 years, according to Gomez. 

    The footage of the shooting was released publicly over the objection of Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, who said she supported the need for transparency but still had an obligation to her investigation into whether the officer involved should face criminal charges.

    Richards' father has said he believed the officers murdered his son in cold blood during the shooting. 

    The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the union representing the city's rank-and-file police officers, condemned the decision to release the video. 

    In a statement, PBA President Patrick Lynch said the footage constitutes a confidential personnel record protected under law, and that releasing it "will expose the police officers involved to a very real and substantial risk of harassment, reprisals and threats to their safety and the safety of their families." 

    Lynch said the release of the footage, "sets a dangerous precedent that jeopardizes police officers' due process rights and confidentiality protections."

    At Thursday's press conference, Gomez said an investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

    "There will be a full comprehensive review of all aspects of this shooting. The actual shooting moments itself and the actions prior to the shooting," he said.

    The department began phase one of the body camera roll-out in April. It plans to have the cameras at more than 20 precincts across the city by the end of this year, with 1,300 officers equipped with them.

    Currently, ten commands are using the cameras, with 670 officers wearing them. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he wants all 23,000 of its patrol officers outfitted with cameras by 2019.

    Phase two of the body camera roll-out starts in January 2018, Gomez said. He added that the department hopes to have 10,000 body-cameras in use by the end of next year. 

    In a note to officers, NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said the department was releasing the footage because it was committed to being transparent.

    "In the vast majority of these cases, we believe that body-worn camera video will confirm the tremendous restraint exhibited by our officers," he wrote.

    But several civil rights organizations released statements Thursday calling for greater accountability and transparency from the department. 

    The Center for Constitutional Rights called the release of the video a positive first step, but said neither the department nor the mayor's office have made clear under what circumstances they will share body-camera footage. 

    "There must be a public and transparent process to create clear rules that dictate how and when body camera footage is released in the future," the CCR said in a statement. 

    There are no set rules on when to release footage. The NYPD has said it would evaluate each instance on a case-by-case basis. That includes decisions about how much footage to release, whether to edit excerpts or whether to make it public at all.

    Meanwhile, the Legal Aid Society said the footage "raises more questions than answers" and shows the officers "demonstrate zero knowledge in identifying and handling a situation involving an individual who may be struggling with mental illness." 

    "Similar to the killing of Deborah Danner, Mr. Richards seems to exhibit no immediate threat to the officers," the Legal Aid Society said in their statement.