PHOENIX (AP) — Supporters of a man fatally shot last week by Phoenix police are calling for the immediate release of unedited body camera footage taken by officers involved in the death, even though the police chief has promised to make the videos public earlier than usual.
Critics accuse the Phoenix Police Department of trying to shape the narrative in the July 4 shooting death of 28-year-old James “Jay” Garcia by withholding footage of officers directly involved in the shooting and instead releasing a clip from another officer who later removed a handgun from Garcia’s lap after he had been shot.
“It was actually unethical to release that video to continue to portray James as something that he was not. And even if he was, I think the whole story needs to be told before they shape it the way they did,” said Phoenix City Council member Carlos Garcia, who isn’t related to Garcia.
Phoenix police spokeswoman Sgt. Mercedes Fortune said Wednesday that the footage of the officer removing the gun from James Garcia’s lap was released to respond to misinformation on social media about the shooting.
The department said it must first finish interviewing all witnesses before it will release the videos. Police Chief Jeri Williams has promised to release the videos within 10 to 14 days, not the normal 45-day wait.
“Families ought to receive answers about our loved ones,” said Garcia’s mother, Denice Garcia.
Williams, whose office is investigating the fatal shooting, has asked the FBI to conduct a civil rights investigation into Garcia’s death.
Federal law enforcement officials will review the evidence to determine whether a federal response is warranted, said Brooke Brennan, an FBI spokeswoman in Arizona.
The shooting, which drew protests earlier this week in Phoenix, occurred when police were called to the Maryvale neighborhood by a 911 caller who reported seeing a man who had stabbed him a week earlier and was threatening to harm him again.
It’s unclear whether the 911 caller had claimed Garcia or someone else was the person who had previously stabbed him.
Police say they haven’t been successful in locating the 911 caller to confirm whether Garcia was involved in the earlier assault. Daniel Ortega, an attorney representing Garcia’s family, maintains that Garcia wasn’t the person who carried out the attack.
In any case, police say the 911 caller pointed officers to a home where a car driven by Garcia was parked. An attorney for Garcia’s family said he was there to pick up a friend.
Police say Garcia refused an order to exit the car and instead rolled up the windows and pulled out a gun. They say two officers fired on Garcia after he refused to drop the gun, repeatedly told police to shoot him and lifted the weapon toward officers. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
A video taken by a bystander shows officers standing outside the car in the moments before the shooting.
One officer can be heard profanely telling Garcia to not move or he will get shot. Shortly before the shooting, an officer swung a metal bar at one of the car’s passenger windows to distract Garcia.
“He’s dead,” one witness yelled shortly after the shots were fired. “What are you guys doing?”
Ortega said the police department was taking a step in the right direction in speeding up the release of the videos, but he faulted the agency for releasing the video of the officer removing a gun from Garcia’s lap.
“You can’t have it both ways,” Ortega said.