SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA – Police have now released body-camera footage of the five gunshots that killed Richard Sanchez in San Bernardino, California. A woman is heard screaming as the man falls onto the front yard lawn. The shooting happened on September 29, 2018.
Eventually, Richard Sanchez dropped his gun after officers yelled at him to do so. Mr Sanchez then began walking towards the officers. A relative in the house led before calling 911 to report that Sanchez was saying irrational things and making physical threats while he was intoxicated.
An officer ordered 27-year-old Sanchez to put his hands up as the man began walking towards police, and he did.
An officer is heard yelling at Sanchez, ordering him to “Stop!”, but Sanchez kept walking towards the officer with his arms raised.
The officer fired shots at Sanchez a few seconds and two commands later. The body-cam footage released by the SBPD shows the five lethal gunshots that killed Mr Sanchez and a woman is screaming as the man fell onto the front lawn.
Acting Police Chief Eric McBride gave a statement during a briefing on Friday, a year after the 2018 shooting on September 28, and said, “The officer’s decisions did not meet the standards held by our department or the community we serve.”
McBride said the shooting officer is no longer on the police force, and that there is an investigation into potential criminal charges by the San Bernardino district attorney.
The video was alarming, and its release comes at a time when fatal shootings by police officers continue to fuel outrage in communities in the United States who are skeptical if they will receive proper justice from law enforcement.
A Dallas, Texas officer who shot her neighbor in his own home was recently convicted. There are also murder charges against an officer in Fort Worth, Texas who fatally shot a woman while she was playing video games in her home. These two incidents have been praised as signs that law enforcement is being held accountable for using unjustified deadly force. However, there have been years of such cases that didn’t lead to charges or firings which have sown distrust in law enforcement.
Sanchez’s family gave a statement to local media which praised the SBPD’s willingness to scrutinize the killing of Mr Sanchez.
“While Richard’s sudden passing has left a void that cannot be filled in the lives of his family members, the family is honored and encouraged by the swift acceptance of responsibility by the leadership of the San Bernardino Police Department – whose investigation into this tragic incident was aimed at uncovering the truth, even when this meant acknowledging the mistakes of a fellow officer,” the statement said.
According to police, Mr. Sanchez’s sister-in-law called 911 to report he was making threats to family members while wielding a handgun in the kitchen and was also saying odd things. For example, Mr Sanchez was claiming he was “God.”
The sister-in-law was in fear of her safety and fled the house with children, officials said. Mr Sanchez was found inside the house with the gun in his hand when officers arrived, according to body-dam footage.
Weapons were drawn on Sanchez who was standing at the open front door, police ordered him several times to drop his gun, but Sanchez set the weapon on the couch.
“Suddenly, and without being told to do so, Sanchez advanced toward the officers, taking eight steps,” Sgt. John Echevarria said in the video briefing.
Sanchez complied with commands to put his hands up, but he continued walking towards officers during three commands telling him to stop, according to Echevarria.
It is unclear if the officer who fired shots at Sanchez resigned or if he was dismissed, and his name wasn’t immediately made public. McBride noted that “disciplinary action has been initiated.”
According to police, the other officer in the body-cam footage returned to active duty.
McBride made note that “members of (his) department respond to fast-moving and often dangerous situations every day,” and later added that “each encounter is unique and requires officers to make split-second decisions without the benefit of 20-20 hindsight.”
However, the police chief didn’t give any details about how the officer failed at his decision-making to meet department standards. The chief said there was an internal review by the SBPD into the officer’s actions but that they didn’t make findings into whether he was in violation of the law.