New York, NY — After years of police accountability activists demanding NYPD officers wear body cameras, a pilot program began in April in which select precincts began to wear them. Now, for the first time ever in the history of the NYPD, the department has released footage of an officer killing a mentally ill man — 31-year-old Bronx resident Miguel Richards.
Richards’ landlord called the police to do a welfare check on him as he had not been seen in weeks. Upon arrival to Richards’ room, the young man can be seen wearing dark sunglasses and standing in the furthest corner of his room by his bed. Immediately, the officers noticed he was holding a knife. Later, it was observed he also had a toy gun which was obviously a toy.
For an agonizing 15 minutes, officers appeared to have done their best to talk down the young man—by yelling at him constantly to put down the knife.
They began considering shooting him at about the 7-minute mark in the body camera footage. One officer asks if they’re on the top floor, seeming to consider where the bullets would go if Richards continued with the standoff. He then told Richards he was “seconds away” from getting shot and to put down the weapons.
There were four officers on the scene when the decision was made around the 15-minute mark to take Richards down. “You wanna take him down now?” “Okay, just hit him (assuming with the taser),” the officers said to each other.
When Officer 3 moved in with the taser, it appeared Richards moved slightly and then officers one and two opened fire, shooting over Officer 3 to hit Richards. They hit him 16 times, killing the young man. The officers who opened fire were identified as Mark Fleming and Redmond Murphy.
Richards didn’t have a prior criminal record, nor a history of mental illness, the New York Daily News reported. “He did not deserve to die this way,” his distraught father, 61-year-old Belvett Richards, told the newspaper. “He was murdered… cold blooded.”
The entire incident serves to illustrate just how risky it may be to call police for any situation. Keep in mind, it was supposed to be a welfare check, to make sure Richards was all right. Upon seeing the man standing in his own room, holding his own knife, and a toy, the police could have backed away and called his family. Instead, they continued to escalate the standoff, using absolutely no training in basic mental health.
According to the NYPD’s official statement:
The officers asked the individual if was holding a firearm, whether or not it was real, and then ordered him to drop it. The officers told the individual that they did not want to hurt him. Again, the officers received no compliance. The individual then proceeded to raise his right hand with the gun in the direction of the officers, at which point one officer deployed the taser and another two officers simultaneously discharged their service weapons.
Having reviewed all of the body camera footage provided there does appear to be one discrepancy between the official police statement and what may have transpired on the scene. Once the decision was made to go in and taser Mr. Richards, it seems as though one of the officers actually fired his weapon before the taser was deployed. This is entirely based on one observation, the lighting which was cast from the firing of the weapon seemed to originate from outside the room, not from within, where Officer 3 had already positioned himself with the taser.
Unfortunately, Mr. Richards lost his life because presumably the landlord did not go and check to see if his/her tenant was okay. Instead, guys with guns were called who promptly dispatched the terrified man.
Compiled videos from the officers,
Commentary by Jon Masters,