The first San Francisco police body camera footage made public from a critical shooting incident appears to contradict some of the official version of the Jan. 6 incident that hospitalized a mentally ill man who was unarmed.
But police officials continue to contend that their officers acted with restraint against a violent man, and that details of the incident depicted in videos are only part of the story.
The footage of Officer Kenneth Cha shooting Sean Moore was released first by the Public Defender’s Office Wednesday after the office received it as part of the discovery from the District Attorney’s Office in their defense of Moore, who is held on $2 million bail and faces a handful of felony charges.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi is calling for the charges against Moore to be dropped because of what the video shows.
A District Attorney’s Office spokesperson declined to comment on any change to the charges, but did say that prosecutors have already reviewed the videos. It’s unclear whether any other new evidence has emerged that would alter the felony charges against Moore, which include assaulting an officer.
The footage of the shooting appears to show Cha and his partner being aggressive and even taunting Moore before shooting him twice as he retreated up a flight of stairs to his house.
WARNING: THE VIDEO BELOW CONTAINS GRAPHIC FOOTAGE.
“Officer Cha is approaching towards him before the shots were fired,” said Moore’s attorney Brian Pearlman of the Public Defender’s Office, who added that his client has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Cleo Moore, Sean Moore’s mother, said the incident “didn’t have to happen this way if the officers had been trained” to deal with people with mental illness. Neither officer was trained in crisis intervention, according to the Police Department.
The officer’s behavior also appears to contradict a new use of force policy that emphasizes de-escalation, as well as statements by police that said Moore charged them.
The San Francisco Police Officers Association used the event to attack the new policy, claiming that officers need more tools at their disposal — including stun guns — in order to prevent them from shooting people.
Police, meanwhile, had refused to release the footage until Wednesday after the Public Defender’s office did so. The San Francisco Examiner had requested the footage in a Public Records Act request, but police denied the request, citing the ongoing investigation.
At a community meeting a week after the incident, police officials offered a different version of events, which was reiterated by Acting Chief Toney Chaplin at a news conference Wednesday afternoon at which two reporters were removed from the room for apparently not having press credentials.
“The footage shows that they were in fact assaulted by the suspect,” said Chaplin, who added that their response to the situation was muted. “In this particular case there was great restraint.”
Chaplin’s tenure as top cop of the Police Department will end next week when Los Angeles police Deputy Chief William Scott is sworn in as the new San Francisco police chief on Monday.
Police said Cha and a partner arrived at 515 Capitol Ave. at 4:15 a.m. Jan. 6 after a neighbor complained that Moore was banging on their common wall, the San Francisco Examiner previously reported.
That neighbor had a restraining order filed against Moore and the pair of officers tried to hand the document to him.
When he grabbed it, one of the officers sprayed pepper spray in his face. Moore kicked one of the officers and then retreated to his gated door. The officers retreated and then went back up the stairs, which led to another violent interaction that resulted in Moore being shot.
On Wednesday, police showed images of both officers bloodied and injured from the interaction.
Among the main discrepancies between the Police Department’s version and what appears in the video is what happened right before the shooting. Police said Moore charged at them, but the video depicts Cha going toward Moore.
Moore’s mother told reporters that police had been to the house before and knew of her son’s mental state, but police said they are not sure that is the case.
Adachi said his office has yet to receive any initial statements made by the officers before they viewed the body camera footage. The Police Department’s body camera policy requires officers to make a statement before viewing the footage. But Chaplin disputed Adachi’s claim that no statements were made before the officers saw the video.
Officers “provided a statement before they reviewed the footage,” Chaplin said.
The footage is the first time such a video has been widely released to the public since body cameras went department-wide late last year.
But lawyers have been using footage in their cases for some time.
Deputy Public Defender Rebecca Young, who helped craft the department’s body camera policy, said while the cameras are useful, getting and using the footage has been problematic.
“We have dozens upon dozens of body camera [footage] evidence in our cases now,” she said. But at times it takes too long to be turned over and is sometimes partial.
“I have two cases where it has been turned over but the body camera has not been turned on in a timely fashion. They are being very selective about when they turn their cameras on.”
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