The New York Police Department has finally released body camera footage of a shooting death that occurred in the Bronx recently. The video clearly shows the law enforcement officers repeatedly asking Miguel Richards to drop an item he was holding in one of his hand. Initially the police thought was a gun but it turned out to be a toy gun.
Unlike many other Police Departments in the Nation, the New York Police Dept. has lagged behind when it comes to the use of body cameras. This was the first fatal shooting that involved these officers while they were wearing the body camera.
The body camera footage was related to the standoff between the police and Miguel Richards, a 31 year old exchange student from Jamaica. The officers had been requested by his landlord to check thing out at his Bronx apartment.
This new footage has been lauded by civil rights lawyers who have been asking for police reform across the nation for quite some time now. There have been many recent shootings involving the police and the African community and each time there have been questions as to whether the fatalities were justified.
However, while the wearing of body cameras is a step forward, many feel that the police still have a long way to go because they just do not know how to respond to people with acute mental health crises.
In this case, Miguel Richards was asked to drop the knife for about 15 minutes, and the police also initially suspected a gun in the other hand. Throughout this incident, Miguel stood in a dark corner, inside his 3,700 Pratt Ave apartment like a statue. He wore sunglasses and did not say a word. He also did not respond to any of the verbal commands made by the officers.
The police repeatedly asked him what he had in his hand and even warned him that they would shoot him. After about 15 minutes, one of the officers tried to use a taser to subdue Richards but at that very moment Richards raised his arm. The officers, believing that he had a gun, fired a hail of 16 bullets.
Tragically, the object in his hand was a toy gun. The officers really could not tell what Richard had in the dark and had precious few seconds to decide what to do. The combustible scenario turned tragic for Miguel who died on the spot.
So far the police have not made any determination if the shooting was justified but all officers remain on duty. However, a lawyer with the New York Civil Liberties says the officers were the aggressors and should have shown restraint as Richards had now shown any evidence of intent to harm himself or others.