The Los Angeles Police Department released a body cam video showing an officer shooting at a fleeing man last month after confronting him standing on a sidewalk smoking a cigarette and attempting to pat him down.
Police say the man in the video had a gun that he pointed at the officer before tossing it aside while being chased. They claim in the video that they found it although in the video, it is never seen on the suspect.
Now the man, Julio Rodriguez, who was not struck by the officer’s bullet, is facing a charge of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer which is a felony.
But did he really have a gun?
The video shows Rodriguez approached by Los Angeles police officer Gabriel Rivas who who demands to know what he is smoking, hoping to score an easy marijuana arrest. Although recreational marijuana has been legalized in California, it is not legal to consume it in public allowing cops to continue shaking people down for weed.
When it became evident Rodriguez was only smoking a cigarette, Rivas then asked if he was on probation or parole even though Rodriguez had done nothing to raise suspicion that he was committing a crime (other than the smoking which turned out to be legal).
When Rodriguez said he was not on probation or parole, Rivas began questioning him about a nearby can on the sidewalk, hoping to nab him for consuming alcohol in public but Rodriguez said it did not belong to him.
But when Rodriguez said the can did not belong to him, that he was just waiting for his friend to give him a ride, Rivas then tried to pat him down, doing his best to escalate the interaction as they are trained to do.
“Is it all-right if we pat you down real quick?” Rivas asks, moving closer to him.
“Why, what do I have?” Rodriguez responds.
“What’s that in your pocket, dude?” Rivas asks.
“I have like keys,” he responds, placing his hand on his pocket.
“Don’t reach for it,” another cop says
“Put your fucking hands behind your back,” Rivas demands, grabbing at him.
It was only then that Rodriguez runs. And it was only after Rivas is chasing Rodriguez that he calls for backup, saying he is chasing “a man with a gun.” Before that, there was no acknowledgment of a gun, nobody yelling “gun!” as they are trained to do for “officer safety.”
Rivas continues giving chase until he corners Rodriguez in front of a house.
“Put your fucking hands up, dude!” Rivas yells before firing his gun but misses.
As Rivas is handcuffing him, another cop tells him, “don’t reach for the gun.”
“Huh?” Rodriguez responds as if he had no idea what the cop was talking about.
In fact, Rodriguez is very concerned about his phone which he said he dropped while the cops continue to accuse him of having thrown a gun.
He is also shocked that Rivas would shoot at him which is not the natural reaction from somebody who just pointed a gun at a cop. Those people are never shocked that police shot them.
During the entire conversation between the two, Rivas keeps talking about a gun while Rodriguez keeps talking about his missing phone, insisting to know why the cop shot at him.
Police say Rodriguez turned and pointed his gun at Rivas while being chased but that is not evident at all in the video.
After handcuffing him, the cops then claim they found the gun which was not too far from where they arrested Rodriguez. Below is the photo of the gun.
The LAPD issued the following press release about the shooting:
Los Angeles: On January 5, 2020, around 1:00 a.m., officers assigned to Northeast Area patrol were in the area of Griffin and Avenue 43. The officers initiated a narcotics investigative stop on a male, later identified as Julio Rodriguez. Rodriguez then ran from the officers who pursued him on foot. After a brief foot pursuit, Rodriguez produced a handgun an officer-involved shooting occurred.
Rodriguez was not struck by gunfire and was taken into custody. Rodriguez was arrested for Assault with a Deadly Weapon on a Peace Officer.
No officers were injured during this incident. A 9mm caliber firearm was recovered at scene.
LAPD’s specialized Force Investigation Division (FID) responded to the scene and began interviewing witnesses and collecting forensic evidence. A representative from the Office of the Inspector General responded and monitored the scene investigation.
The complete investigation will be reviewed by the Chief of Police and the Board of Police Commissioners and the Office of the Inspector General to determine the thoroughness and accuracy of the investigation and whether the use of deadly force complied with the LAPD’s policies and procedures.
It does not appear as if Rodriguez was on probation or parole because that would have been mentioned in the press release.
There is also the question of whether this was even a legal detainment in the first place. It went from suspicious of smoking a joint to suspicion of being on parole to suspicion of drinking a beer in public before they focused on whatever he had in his pockets.
According to California law police can only conduct a pat down search if they have a “justifiable belief” the person may be armed and dangerous but Rodriguez gave no indicator he was.
Police may temporarily detain you in a public place—even without a valid arrest warrant—if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that you have been involved in criminal activity; and
Police may conduct a pat-down search (also known as a “frisk”) of your outer clothing to look for weapons, if they have a justifiable belief that you may be armed and dangerous.
As of now, we are just expected to believe their version of the truth but let’s not forget the LAPD has a history of labeling young men as gang members when they are not.
Watch the video of the incident in the video above. The video can be seen in the video below beginning at the 4-minute mark after police spokespeople try to explain why they were justified in shooting Rodriguez.