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NYPD Releases Video of Fatal Police Shooting of Armed Mentally Ill Man

By  Aidan Gardiner and Ben Fractenberg | September 14, 2017 3:16pm | Updated on September 14, 2017 5:37pm

"Wanna take him down now?" an officer asks just before police gunned down Miguel Richards, video shows.
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NYPD

CIVIC CENTER — The NYPD released footage Thursday afternoon of officers fatally shooting a man armed with a knife and a fake gun after a standoff in his Eastchester apartment.

WARNING: DISTURBING IMAGES AND STRONG LANGUAGE

Miguel Richards, 31, can be seen in the recording wearing sunglasses and a polo shirt, standing stock-still in the corner of his third-floor apartment at 3700 Pratt Ave., near Conner Street, when officers Mark Fleming and Redmond Murphy confronted him about 4 p.m. on Sept. 6.

The officers spotted him holding a knife in one hand and hiding his other hand, which police later found out held a toy gun with a laser pointer.

"I don't want to shoot you. Put your hand up and drop that knife," one of the officers can be heard telling Richards.

Initially, only Fleming and Murphy are heard talking to Richards, but the landlord eventually got a friend of Richards to try and talk to him. 

About seven minutes into the encounter, a friend of Richards entered the apartment and implored him to comply. 

"Dude, put your hands up!" the friend is heard yelling. "Dude, I'm begging you!"

The officers eventually call for backup while still trying to get Richards to surrender. 

Fleming calls out to Richards: “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.”

Officers Jesus Ramos and Marco Oliveros arrive after Fleming orders Richards to drop what appeared to be a gun. 

Ramos, whose video is seen above, had a taser, and is seen shooting Richards after asking the other officers, "Wanna take him down now?"

"Yeah," the officers reply.

The video shows Richards raise the toy gun with the red laser pointer toward the officers just outside his bedroom.

Ramos then holds up his yellow stun gun, walks into the room and stuns Richards. 

Fleming and Murphy then open fire several seconds later, firing 16 times and fatally striking Richards, according to police.

The call originally came in for a "wellness check" because the landlord had not heard from him in several days, but after police established he was armed with the knife and what appeared to be a real gun, it became a call for an emotionally disturbed person — an EDP.

Police officers are supposed to isolate and contain EDPs until the Emergency Service Unit personnel, who are trained to handle calls with mentally ill people, arrive to handle the call.

In this case, ESU had arrived at the home, but was still outside when the shooting occurred.

WARNING: DISTURBING IMAGES AND STRONG LANGUAGE

NYPD Chief of Department Carlos Gomez said the officers gave Richards 50 commands to drop a weapon and 52 to show his hands. 

His friend made 44 requests for him to drop his knife. 

“That’s a lot of warnings by both uniformed officers as well as the friend that was at the scene,” Gomez said.

The shooting is still under investigation by the Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, who said Wednesday that she did not want the footage released before her inquiry was completed.

"I still have an obligation to protect the integrity of the investigation into this shooting. Releasing videos to the public during the early stages of an investigation may resolve some questions about the incident, but it may compromise the integrity of the investigation," she said.

Police Commissioner James O'Neil told rank and file officers that he was releasing the video to help build trust between police and the community, according to the New York Daily News.

"Transparency is one of the many ways this department can continue to keep and build on the trust each of you has worked so hard to earn from members of the community all across our city," he said.

The shooting is the first recorded on NYPD body cameras, which are being worn by more and more officers over the coming months.

The NYPD released seven files of the footage, some edited and some showing the continuous sequence of events from one camera or another.

They also released a nearly 17-minute compilation of all the footage showing the extensive standoff with Richards, who remained mostly silent.

About 670 officers currently have cameras, police said, and an additional 10,000 are expected to get them in 2018. 

“This footage raises more questions than it answers. Similar to the killing of Deborah Danner, Mr. Richards seems to exhibit no immediate threat to the officers," said Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the Criminal Practice at the Legal Aid Society in a statement. "Moreover, these officers demonstrate zero knowledge in identifying and handling a situation involving an individual who may be struggling with mental illness."