The NYPD released the body camera footage from last week's fatal police shooting of a man in the Bronx, showing the tense standoff that took place between officers on the scene and a silent Miguel Richards, who was eventually shot and killed by police when he pointed what turned out to be a toy gun at them. The shooting was the first of its kind to be captured on an NYPD body cam.
Police arrived at the Eastchester apartment last Thursday afternoon after Richards's landlord, Glenmore Carey, said that he realized he hadn't heard from Richards in over a month. Police at a nearby station house said that Carey could ask for a wellness check, which he requested and then allowed police to enter Richards's apartment.
In a compilation video the department put together with footage from three officers' cameras and showed to the media at a press conference this afternoon, you can see a police officer holding a flashlight on Richards, standing in the corner of his bedroom, asking him to put down a knife police say he was holding. Eventually, after Richards doesn't comply, the officer draws his gun. Below, the compilation video released by the NYPD. [WARNING: The video is disturbing.]
The police officer repeatedly orders Richards to drop the knife over the course of the video.
"I don't want to shoot you, but I will if you don't drop that knife," the officer shouts at one point in the video.
You can also hear a man who Chief of Department Carlos M. Gomez said was a friend of Richards repeatedly begging him to drop his knife while he stands impassively. Richards's friend can be heard from behind the officers, yelling "Put your hands up dude, it's not a joke," and "Put your hands up dude, I'm begging you."
The officers then began debating whether or not Richards is holding a real gun.
"He's got a gun?" one asks.
"He's got a silver [unintelligible] in his right hand. I don't know if it's a toy though," another responds.
The first officer can then be heard saying, "Ricardo is that a real gun you got there? Ricardo I don't want to shoot you if you've got a fake gun in your hand. You hear me? But I will shoot you if that's a real gun. Drop that gun to the floor, and drop that knife to the floor."
Near the end of the video, a third officer shows up and asks the two police on scene, "Wanna take him down now?" One officer appears to say "Yeah, go" and the third officer draws his Taser.
Richards's hands appear to come up and a red dot can be seen, which police believed was a laser sight attached to the toy gun that Richards was holding. The video shows Richards getting Tased once, and the other two officers then open fire with their guns, killing him.
While Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill supported the idea of releasing the video to the public, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said that she would have preferred the video not be released until after her investigation of the shooting.
Patrolman's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch also criticized the decision to release the footage, which he claims is covered under Section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Law, which states that police disciplinary records "shall be considered confidential and not subject to inspection or review" unless a court mandates it.
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"The fact that the NYPD refused to release the body camera footage immediately doesn't jibe with the fact that police always release surveillance and other footage to the media immediately," Josmar Trujillo of the Coalition to End Broken Windows told Gothamist. "So there's a different set of standards with the NYPD releasing body camera footage, versus when they're trying to incriminate other people."
"That the video wasn't immediately available, and the fact that it's only being shared through controlled means like the press only reinforces ideas that the body cameras aren't about accountability and are really about what the NYPD needs at a particular time to fit their narrative," Trujillo said.
"The NYPD doesn't have any particular rules or guidelines garnering when they release body camera footage to the public," Darius Charney, a staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, told Gothamist. "It's at their discretion. We hope that going forward they are going to err on the side of transparency in situations like this. The public is very eager to know."
"This is a great first step but what they really need to do is come up with some rules of the road for when they will release it going forward. At this point it's completely at the commissioner's discretion," Charney said.
"Even their ability to color what is showed in the footage is problematic," said Lurie Daniel Favors, general counsel for the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College. She was particularly struck by the text disclosure at the beginning of the NYPD's compilation video.
"In the NYPD statement, they said the footage clearly showed that the individual who was killed clearly raised his gun with the laser sight," said Daniel Favors. "That's not what I saw."