The family of the unarmed man shot by police in the Bronx last week is calling on the NYPD to release body camera footage from the incident, claiming that cops are lying about the "violent struggle" that preceded the use of deadly force, as well as the initial justification for the traffic stop.
Allan Feliz, 31, was killed by police last Thursday, after a routine traffic stop for an alleged seatbelt violation quickly escalated into a chaotic arrest. As officers attempted to apprehend Feliz—who they said had open warrants for minor violations—bystander footage shows the vehicle driving forward, briefly reversing, then coming to a stop. Shots ring out moments later, apparently from an NYPD sergeant who'd climbed into the passenger side of the SUV.
"Their claim is essentially that he's using the vehicle as a means of deadly force, but the video that the citizen took clearly shows that not to be the case," said Robert Vilensky, an attorney for Feliz's family. "How is it possible that car is a dangerous instrument if the car is stopped?"
According to a passenger in the vehicle, the initial justification for the traffic stop was also fabricated, as he and Feliz were both wearing their seatbelts. "I think it was racial profiling. I think it's why they initially stopped them," said Vilensky, who is also representing the unnamed passenger. He says the sergeant had his gun pointed at Feliz for the entire encounter.
Law enforcement officials have maintained that officers acted responsibly during the confrontation. NYPD Chief of Detectives Terence Monahan said that the sergeant deployed a Taser on Feliz for multiple cycles, which failed to end the struggle. He fired his gun only after the "the man shifted the car into drive, moving the car forward and backwards, with the sergeant still inside the vehicle," Monahan said.
Lawyers for the family, meanwhile, say it's unclear whether Feliz was attempting to drive away. The sergeant on the right-hand side of the vehicle, out of view from witness video, was likely blocking the gear-shifter, according Vilensky. "His body is laying across both front seats," the attorney said. "I don't know how Mr. Feliz is moving that—it just doesn't jive with reality."
The NYPD has so far declined to make body camera footage of the incident available, prompting Vilensky to file a motion ensuring the evidence is not suppressed. He intends to file a notice of claim against the city later this week.
In the aftermath of the deadly shooting, Feliz's body was dragged out of the car, and one of the officers can be seen placing him in handcuffs, before attempting to administer aid.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing," Sammy Feliz, the victim's brother, told the Daily News. “I couldn’t believe the embarrassment that they placed my brother through."
He added that his brother was recently released from federal prison on charges of planning to rob a pharmacy, and was looking forward to spending time with his 5-month-old son.
A total of five people have been killed by NYPD officers in the past month, including an allegedly armed, nude man in Harlem who was shot earlier Wednesday morning.
A spokesperson for the NYPD did not respond to Gothamist's inquiries.