New York police have released body camera footage showing the tense build-up to the fatal shooting of a man holding a knife and what turned out to be a fake gun.
- Miguel Richards was shot 16 times, nine times by one officer and seven by another
- After about 15 minutes of negotiations, police noticed a gun behind his back
- Police say they asked man 50 times to drop his weapons
The cameras did not capture a clear picture of the moment when officers opened fire.
It was the first fatal police encounter recorded on the devices since officers began wearing them this year.
Police were called to the Bronx home of 31-year-old Miguel Richards on September 6 after his landlord reported he had not seen him for days.
The videos, shot by cameras worn by four officers, show how police pleaded with Richards for several minutes to drop his weapons and show his hands.
Officer Mark Flemming shines a flashlight into Richards’ bedroom as the information technology student, wearing dark glasses and holding a knife, stands motionless behind his bed. He never speaks.
“Put your hand up, dude, and drop the knife,” Mr Flemming says calmly.
“I don’t want to shoot you. Put your hand up and drop that knife.”
A friend called to the apartment by the landlord frantically begs Richards to drop the knife and put his hands up.
About 15 minutes in, the officers notice Richards has a gun behind his back.
Three officers train two guns and a taser on Miguel Richards in his New York apartment. (AP: New York Police Department)
“Drop that gun, dude. Drop that gun,” Mr Flemming says.
“Is that a real gun you’ve 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.”
What happens next is partly obscured by the officers’ arms and the walls.
Another officer, Jesus Ramos, quickly enters the bedroom with a stun gun. There is a loud bang — police said from the stun gun discharging — a thump, then 16 gunshots.
Police said the officers fired when Richards pointed a fake gun with a laser pointer at the officers.
A red dot from a laser pointer can be seen in the video, but it is not clear whether that comes from the toy pistol or the sight on the stun gun. The officers appear to recoil just before firing.
The four officers at the scene included Mr Flemming, who fired nine times, and Redmond Murphy, who fired seven times. Another officer, Marco Oliveras, did not shoot.
Victim ‘did not deserve to die this way’: father
“This footage raises more questions than it answers,” said Tino Luongo, a lead attorney at The Legal Aid Society.
Ms Luongo added that Richards seemed to pose no immediate threat to the officers.
“Moreover, these officers demonstrate zero knowledge in identifying and handling a situation involving an individual who may be struggling with mental illness,” she said.
NYPD chief Carlos Gomez said officers asked Richards 50 times to drop the weapons.
“That’s a lot of warnings by both uniformed officers and a friend at the scene,” he said.
Richards’ father has said he believed officers killed his son in cold blood.
“He did not deserve to die this way,” he told the Daily News of New York.