Disturbing Video Shows San Bernardino Police Officer Fatally Shooting Unarmed Man
Body camera video released Friday by the San Bernardino Police Department shows one of its officers fatally shooting an unarmed man holding his hands in the air. The acting police chief said the actions taken by that officer "did not meet the standards."
The shooting of Richard John Sanchez on September 28, 2018, occurred after a member of his family called 911 to report Sanchez was threatening family members with a gun. That initial call was made at 10:14 p.m. Before the officers arrived, a woman police identified as Sanchez's sister-in-law called again in tears and said she had escaped the home with children, but that he remained inside and was threatening family members with a gun in the kitchen.
According to police, family members and witnesses said that Sanchez was intoxicated and making irrational statements such as he had everyone under his control because he was God.
Authorities also said Sanchez, who was 27, had a felony arrest warrant that responding officers knew about at the time of the incident.
Members of Sanchez's family released a statement expressing grief and anguish over his death, but also praise for the police department's handling of the investigation.
"While Richard's sudden passing has left a void that cannot be filled in the lives of his family members," the statement said, "the family is honored and encouraged by the swift acceptance of responsibility by the leadership of the San Bernardino Police Department — whose investigation into this tragic incident was aimed at uncovering the truth, even when this meant acknowledging the mistakes of a fellow officer."
The video, released late on a Friday more than a year after the fatal shooting, shows officers outside the front door repeatedly ordering Sanchez to drop the gun as he stands just inside the home. Sanchez places the gun on a couch and walks out the door, according to the police account of the incident.
Police officers then repeatedly order Sanchez to raise his hands. He raises his hands and keeps walking toward them. Sanchez appears to be just a few feet away from the officers when one officer fires five times.
The officer no longer works for the department, according to police. It's unclear whether he resigned or was fired.
"Upon completion of our internal investigation and review process, we've concluded that one of our officer's decision-making did not meet the standards held by our department or the community we serve," said Acting Chief Eric McBride. "As a result, he no longer works for the San Bernardino Police Department."
McBride gives the officer's last name in the video, but his department did not immediately provide a first name or a spelling. He emphasized that the internal review did not determine whether the now former officer's actions were criminal.
The San Bernardino District Attorney is investigating the incident and will decide whether to file criminal charges against the officer.
WARNING: The following video includes disturbing footage
WHAT THE VIDEO INCLUDES
The department's video includes the acting chief's statement and narration from a sergeant. It shows a aerial photo of the home of where Sanchez was shot, a previous photo of Sanchez and audio of the 911 call — as well as segments from the camera worn by the officer who opened fire.
The production of this video mirrors those from the LAPD, which was the first department in the nation to release videos of shootings on a regular basis. San Bernardino Sgt. John Echevarria narrates the action and the body cam video is paused several times to show:
- When Sanchez has a gun in his hands
- When he sets the gun down on the arm of the couch
- How many steps he takes toward officers while they order him to raise his hands
- When he finally raises his hands
One thing to note, in the slowed motion of the video, his hands are clearly empty prior to the officer firing five shots.
Under a state law that took effect July 1, all police departments are now required to release body-worn camera video of officer-involved shootings within 45 days of the incident, unless the department can "clear and convincing evidence that disclosure would substantially interfere with the investigation."
This video was not subject to the law because it was taken before the law was enacted. It's unclear why the department decided to release it at this time.
FULL STATEMENT RELEASED BY THE FAMILY OF RICHARD SANCHEZ
The family of Richard Sanchez remains overcome with grief over the sudden and unexpected loss of their beloved husband, brother, father, and son and continue to feel the anguish on a daily basis from the loss of a life that cannot be replaced.
While Richard's sudden passing has left a void that cannot be filled in the lives of his family members, the family is honored and encouraged by the swift acceptance of responsibility by the leadership of the San Bernardino Police Department—whose investigation into this tragic incident was aimed at uncovering the truth, even when this meant acknowledging the mistakes of a fellow officer.
By pursuing the truth and by adopting a transparent approach to the investigation of this officer-involved-shooting, the San Bernardino Police Department has demonstrated a model of transparency in which the Sanchez family hopes is emulated by police departments facing similar incidents nationwide.
— The statement was released by the family's attorney Brian Dunn of the Cochran Firm
Saturday, Oct. 26, 12 p.m.: This article was updated with additional detail about the initial call and witness accounts.
8:15 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Sanchez's family.
8 p.m.: This article was updated with a description of how the video was produced and additional background about state law related to the release of body cam and other police video.
7:50 p.m.: This article was updated with the information that the 911 caller was identified as Sanchez's sister-in-law.
This article was originally published at 7:25 p.m.
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