A judge has ordered the NYPD to release videos from a 2017 fatal shooting, saying that keeping police footage from the public flies in the face of the key goal of the body-worn camera program: transparency.
The police department must release all of its footage — a total of 48 minutes from eight body cameras — from the fatal September 2017 encounter between officers and an emotionally distressed Miguel Antonio Richards within 30 days, Judge W. Franc Perry ruled Thursday.
“The stated objective of the BWC pilot program is to promote transparency, accountability and public trust-building,” Perry wrote. “The notion that the public’s interest to be informed on how the NYPD interact with emotionally disturbed individuals ceased after the officers were no longer engaged in the fire their service weapons is contrary to the spirit and intent of the freedom of information laws and the objectives of the BWC pilot program.”
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, NYLPI, had sued for the released of unedited videos in its attempt to increase transparency and advocate for reform in how the city responds to people in mental crisis.
“These aren’t criminal justice matters, these are mental health matters,” said Ruth Lowenkron, director of the disability justice program at NYLPI.
The encounter at hand unfolded on Sept. 6, 2017, after cops were called to at 3700 Pratt Ave by Richards’ landlord, who was concerned for his tenant’s well-being.
Richards was found by officers standing in his dark bedroom with a knife and toy gun.
At one point, NYPD officials say Richards aimed the gun at Officer Jesus Ramos.
Ramos deploys the stun gun while the other two officers — Fleming and Redmond Murphy — open fire on Richards, killing him.
On Sept. 14, 2017, the NYPD released edited parts of recordings from four of the eight officers at the scene.
“I don’t want to shoot you. This is not gonna end well for you if you don’t put that down,” Mark Fleming can be heard saying in one of the edited videos.
“You understand you are seconds away from getting shot if you don’t tell us what’s in that other hand. Do you hear me?” Fleming later yells as the standoff intensifies and he and Murphy raise their weapons. “Do you wanna die?”
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The next day, NYLPI requested the videos from the additional four body-worn cameras and eventually sued when the full release was denied.
Perry sided Thursday with NYLPI, which described the videos has “heavily edited” and sought to find out what happened after the officers shot Richards, writing in his ruling, “NYPD’s redaction cloak in secrecy the action of the police officers in the moments following the shooting.”
“It is clear from the redacted footage that the officer continued to interact with Mr. Richard and public disclosure of this footage will contribute to a great understanding of the incident and simultaneously promote the key objectives of the BWC pilot program,” he wrote.
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Lowenkron lauded the judge’s ruling Sunday, telling The Post the decision is a boon for the public’s access to police records.
“We are happy that the court recognized that these videos should be made available to the public,” she said. “Part of this is to let the police know we are looking into what happened. Nothing can be brushed aside.”
The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.