By Hannah Knowles The Washington Post
Oct. 27, 2019 at 11:09 a.m. GMT+9
Officers yelled at Richard Sanchez to drop his gun — and eventually, he did. He started to walk toward law enforcement, out of a house a relative had fled to call 911 to report Sanchez was intoxicated, making threats and saying irrational things.
Police shouted for the 27-year-old man to put his hands up. He did that, too.
“Stop!” an officer ordered. Sanchez kept walking, arms still raised.
Three seconds and two commands later, the officer opened fire. Body-camera footage now released by police in San Bernardino, Calif., captures the five shots that killed Sanchez and a woman’s screams as he fell onto the lawn.
The officer’s decisions “did not meet the standards held by our department or the community we serve,” acting police chief Eric McBride said in a Friday briefing, a year after the Sept. 28 shooting. The employee is no longer on the force, he said, and the San Bernardino district attorney is investigating for potential criminal charges.
The alarming video was released as fatal shootings by police continue to stoke outrage around the country and leave communities skeptical that they will receive justice.
The recent conviction of a former Dallas officer who shot her neighbor in his home, as well as murder charges against a Fort Worth officer who killed a woman playing video games in her house, were hailed by some as encouraging signs of law enforcement being held accountable for unjustified deadly force. But years of cases that did not lead to firings or charges have sown distrust.
Sanchez’s family praised San Bernardino police’s willingness to scrutinize Sanchez’s killing in a statement provided to local media.
“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 reads.
The family’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Police say they responded to the home in San Bernardino after Sanchez’s sister-in-law called to say he was threatening family members in the kitchen with a handgun and making odd statements — for example, that he was “God.” The woman feared for her safety and escaped the house with children, according to officials. Officers found Sanchez inside the house with his weapon in hand, body-camera footage shows.
Weapons trained on Sanchez through the open front door, police told the man to drop his gun several times. He set it on a couch.
“Suddenly, and without being told to do so, Sanchez advanced toward the officers, taking eight steps,” Sgt. John Echevarria said in a briefing on the video.
Commanded to put his hands up, Sanchez complied. But he kept walking through three orders to stop, Echevarria said.
It’s not clear if the officer who fired on Sanchez, whose name was not immediately available, was dismissed or if he resigned, though McBride said that “disciplinary action has been initiated.” The San Bernardino Police Department did not immediately respond to questions from The Post.
The other officer in the body-cam footage has returned to duty, police said.
McBride noted that members of his department “respond to fast-moving and often dangerous situations every day,” adding later that “each encounter is unique and requires officers to make split-second decisions without the benefit of 20-20 hindsight.”
The chief did not detail how the officer’s decision-making failed to meet standards and said the police department’s internal review of the officer’s actions did not make a finding on whether he violated the law.