Chief-Leader

September 19, 2017


Body-Camera Footage Backs NYPD Shooting But PBA Still Objects

By MARK TOOR

The NYPD last week released body-camera footage of a Bronx man who pointed what turned out to be a toy gun at an officer arriving with a Taser and then was shot to death by other cops who had repeatedly ordered him to stand down.

It was the first fatal shooting by officers equipped with body cameras, which are being worn by fewer than 700 cops participating in a court-ordered pilot program.

PBA Protests Release

The release of the footage was criticized by Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch, who said it violated the officers’ confidentiality rights and could trigger future proceedings against them.

“The release of this footage sets a dangerous precedent that jeopardizes police officers’ due-process rights and confidentiality protections under state law,” he said in a statement Sept. 15, the day after the Police Department released the footage.

“The District Attorney’s investigation into the case is still ongoing—it should be allowed to proceed free of pressure and interference, looking at all of the relevant facts alongside the video footage. Moreover, this footage constitutes a confidential personnel record that is protected under New York State Civil Rights Law Section 50-a, and releasing it in violation of the law 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.”

Mr. Lynch continued, “If fairness and justice are the goal, they won’t be achieved by suspending police officers’ rights whenever it is convenient to do so.”

Motive for Releasing It

The video was released eight days after the shooting. Police initially declined to release the footage, arguing as Mr. Lynch did that doing so could taint an investigation or prejudice a jury. But NYPD sources quoted by the New York Post said the department decided to circulate it because it did not show wrongdoing by police officers.

“It was in our favor,” one source said. “It shows what the cops have to deal with.”

Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark also opposed releasing the film. “I still have an obligation to protect the integrity of the investigation into this shooting,” she said Sept. 13.

A 17-minute compilation the NYPD created from the four officers’ body cameras may be viewed online at goo.gl/yRAhYF. The film from each camera may be accessed at goo.gl/qrft2a.

The incident began when officers were called to the apartment of Miguel Richards, 31, by his landlord, who asked them to check on his well-being, Chief of Department Carlos Gomez said.

Had Knife, Concealed Arm

On the video, Mr. Richards stood still, a knife in his left hand and his right arm behind his back. He did not respond to repeated orders to drop the knife and questions about what he was holding behind his back.

“I don’t want to shoot you,” said Officer Richard Fleming. “This is not going to end well for you if you don’t put that down.”

Pleas by a neighbor and a friend reached by cell phone were no more successful. Officer Fleming radioed for a Taser-equipped officer and a Sergeant.

Officer Fleming’s partner, Redmond Murphy, said he saw a gun.

“You understand you are seconds away from getting shot if you don’t tell us what’s in that other hand. Do you hear me?” Officer Fleming shouted. “Do you wanna die?”

Renewed Warning

Officer Jesus Ramos arrives with a Taser. “Ricardo, [Mr. Richards], is that a real gun you got there?” Officer Fleming asked. “Ricardo, I don’t want to shoot you if you’ve got a fake gun in your hand.”

As Officer Ramos stepped into the room, police said, Mr. Richards pointed his gun at him. This was not seen on the video.

Officers Fleming and Murphy fired a total of 16 bullets, Mr. Gomez said.

Police officials said Mr. Richards was asked 44 times to drop the knife and six times to let go of the gun.