DC officials release body-cam footage of 3 officer-involved deaths

DC officials release body-cam footage of 3 officer-involved deaths
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The Washington Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) on Friday released the body camera and security footage from the deaths of three Black men who were killed weeks apart in 2018 after encounters with the police.

The release comes in the wake of the D.C. City Council passing an emergency reform bill in June amid nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality that required the city and police department to disseminate footage related to use-of-force cases and past shootings.

The graphic footage, released on MPD’s YouTube page, follows the deaths of three men in 2018: Jeffrey Price, 22, who died on May 4 when his motorbike collided with a police cruiser; D’Quan Young, 24, who was shot on May 9 by an off-duty officer dressed in civilian clothes; and Marqueese Alston, 22, who was shot on June 12 during a foot chase with police.

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The Young and Alston shootings were reviewed by the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, which declined to prosecute either case after the the MPD’s review board said the officers involved were justified in their use of force.

The video regarding Young’s death states that an off-duty MPD officer was on his way to attend a cookout with friends when he was approached by Young, who was brandishing a gun.

The off-duty officer involved was wearing civilian clothes and was not himself wearing a body camera so the footage released by the city is from the security camera of a nearby public recreation enter, as well as body camera footage of first responders at the scene.

The video regarding Alston’s death states at the beginning that uniformed officers were patrolling in the southeastern part of the city when they observed Alston “walking with an outline of a handgun in his front right pants pocket area.” It states that Alston fled when the officers attempted to stop him, firing at the officers, who then returned fire.

The clip released from the MPD freezes frame to circle the handgun in Alston’s hand just before the shots began, The Associated Press reported.

Price was reportedly being pursued by police when a cruiser ran a stop sign to block his path. The video released by authorities emphasizes that he was speeding on a stolen motorbike in an opposite lane. His death was ruled an accident and his family has filed a lawsuit death lawsuit, the AP reported.

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During a Friday news conference, MPD Chief Peter Newsham declined to discuss the case due to the ongoing lawsuit but called Price’s death “preventable” and “a tragic accident where a young man lost his life.”

The videos were released under a sweeping reform bill passed June 9 in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed Black man who was killed in Minneapolis police custody after a white officer was seen kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Floyd's death sparked massive Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and racial injustice that have continued for months. 

The legislative package in D.C., which passed unanimously, included a ban on hiring officers with a history of serious misconduct on other police forces and requires the city to quickly disclose the names of officers who are in situations where they use force against citizens. It also compels the quick release of body camera footage and the release of footage from past shootings.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the time had raised concerns about the bill being rushed through the council without public hearings.

In a letter to the council, Bowser said she was worried about the amending of laws that "received significant consideration and public input when they were crafted."

"Allowing for community input and vetting by our residents can only serve to refine and strengthen changes to policing in the District," she said. 

She reiterated her concerns on Friday, saying the council had addressed some of her objections, including clarifying that family members of the victims could block certain footage from being released.

The mayor said the videos are often inconclusive.

“I think people think it will be like watching a TV show, where it’s all clear footage coming from different angles. In fact, what it is is a camera that’s on an officer’s chest, that sometimes doesn’t show anything,” Bowser said. “But at the end, somebody died, and that is hard and painful to watch, but it also shows the very difficult positions that our officers face.”

Black Lives Matter D.C. criticized Bowser on Twitter, saying it is a “blatant lie” to claim there was not insufficient input from the community about the emergency reform bill due to the “tons of hearings” over the years related to body camera footage.

They noted that the mayor could have released the footage on her own “at any point if in the public interest. She did not."

“Muriel it’s hard for these families to watch your callousness, regurgitating @ChiefNewsham’s taking points all of which are twisted and made up. Shame on you for acting like you care,” the group wrote.