The New York City Police Department released the body-camera footage of a deadly police-involved encounter, the first such recording since officers started wearing the devices.
Police fatally shot Miguel Richards, a 31-year-old Bronx man, on September 6. Cops came to the apartment for a wellness check, in response to a call from Richards’s landlord. Police said they found the 31-year-old armed with a knife and what appeared to be a gun. Richards refused the officers’ commands to drop the weapons, and three officers fired, two with pistols and one with a stun gun. The gun Richards raised was a toy pistol.
The department published the approximately 16-minute compilation video of the incident on Thursday afternoon, stitching together footage from the responding officers’ body cameras. The NYPD said it “produced this video for clear viewing of the event as a totality,” but also posted each of the four individual officers’ unedited body-camera recordings.
The video hews to the cops’ account of the incident. A man – apparently Richards – stands in a room, with an officer shining a flashlight on him from outside the doorway. Cops ask him over and over again — WABC counted 44 times — to drop his knife, and later, the gun. (The officers say on the video before the shooting that they are unsure whether the gun is real or fake.) Another man in the room also pleads with Richards to drop his knife and put up his hands. “Put the knife down, brother,” he asks. “Put the knife down, brother, I’m begging you.” Cops fire their weapons after Richards appears to raise his hands with the toy gun. [Warning: The video below is disturbing.]
NYPD commissioner James O’Neill told the department he decided to release the footage in the interest of transparency with the public. “We are doing this because the NYPD is committed to being as transparent as possible with respect to the release of body-worn camera video in these critical incidents,” the commissioner wrote in a memo to cops. “Transparency is one of the many ways this department can continue to keep and build on the trust each of you has worked so hard to earn from members of the community all across our city.” He added that the “level of direction and restraint exercised by members of the NYPD is nothing short of exceptional. Releasing footage from critical incidents like this will help firmly establish your restraint in the use of force, and will plainly exhibit to the public your reasonable and judicious use of force when that force becomes necessary.”
The NYPD began officially rolling out its body-camera program this April, placing cameras with a few hundred officers, with the goal of equipping the entire 22,000-plus force by 2019. This is the first resulting recording of a police-involved fatal shooting, and was released over the objections of the Bronx D.A., who wanted to make the video public only after she completed her investigation. The PBA, the city’ largest police union, also resisted the release of the video, warning of a “dangerous precedent.”