In the early morning hours of Thursday, Sept. 6, 19-year-old Darell Richards was shot and killed by a SWAT officer with the Sacramento Police Department. The officers claimed Richards had pointed a weapon at them—a weapon that was later discovered to be a pellet gun. When the body camera footage from the officers at the scene was reviewed, police learned that the body cameras of multiple officers at the scene—including one of the SWAT officers who fired shots at Richards—had been turned off.
Supposedly, the cameras may have “accidentally” been turned off when the butt of the rifles they were aiming inadvertently hit the button on the body camera. To prevent this from happening in the future, the department has implemented a new policy on where the cameras should now be placed.
Sacramento Police Department spokesman Vance Chandler told the Sacramento Bee, “They’re putting them now in a place where the stock of their weapon is less likely to hit the button to turn them off.”
Officers previously wore the cameras in the center of their chest. Civil Rights attorney John Burris—who is representing Richards’ family—told the Bee that he has never heard of an officer’s weapon turning off a body camera.
“There should not be a situation where typically the best evidence in a case is neutralized because of the video camera’s contact with the weapon,” Burris said. “It should never happen.”
Chandler told the Bee that other police departments who buy their body cameras from the same company, Axon, have reported similar issues.
The Richards family has filed a claim against the city, which indicates they are likely to follow with a federal civil rights lawsuit.
At a press conference on Monday, family members and members of Black Lives Matter Sacramento criticized the department for the “accidental” camera shutdowns and demanded that charges be pressed against the officers involved and that the names of those officers be released.
As with the officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark in March, the department is not releasing the names of the officers involved in the Richards shooting because they claim there have been threats made against their lives.
Video of the incident that was released to the public did not include any footage of Richards pointing the pellet gun at officers.
Chandler told the Bee that the police investigation into the shooting is ongoing.