Vancouver Police Chief Jeff Mori says his agency will release body camera footage that officers wore this week when they shot and killed a man at a shopping center, though the release date is unclear.
Video captured by a bystander has already surfaced on social media showing multiple armed officers running through a parking lot, confronting someone outside a grocery store and quickly firing a volley of shots.
Many questions remain, such as who the man was and to what extent police had been investigating him. In a news release after the shooting, Vancouver police called the man a suspect in multiple armed robberies and said he fired first at officers. The man is not visible in the social media footage.
Mori, through a spokesperson, said that he doesn’t want to release the footage so soon after an outside investigation started.
“There’s a process in place and we’re trying to be respectful of that,” said spokesperson Kim Kapp. “We do plan to release video related to Tuesday’s shooting, but I do not have a specific date when that will occur.”
Under Washington law, outside investigations are triggered when agencies use deadly force. A team from Cowlitz County is leading the investigation. Such investigations often take at least a month to complete.
Three Vancouver police officers and a Clark County Sheriff’s Office deputy opened fire outside a grocery store, according to police statements.
According to police, a Vancouver detective initially spotted the man – an armed robbery suspect – driving around 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Detectives trailed the man to the shopping center, and he went inside a Safeway. Police said they tried to arrest him as he exited the store.
“He dropped a bag of items, displayed a firearm and ran westbound through the parking lot,” the statement read. “During the attempt to apprehend him, the suspect fired at officers, and they returned fire.”
The incident marked the first time for law enforcement in Southwest Washington that body-worn cameras captured a shooting. The city spent $5.5 million on a contract with Arizona-based company Axon Enterprises last fall and began wearing the cameras in February.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office has also recently agreed to wear body cameras, but the program hasn’t launched, according to Sheriff John Horch.
When asked if the agency has discussed releasing the footage, which it has the discretion to do, the Vancouver police spokesperson said “there’s been discussions.”
“It’s certainly something that has been talked about but not in any great detail, in a timeline or what the specifics would be,” Kapp said.
It remains unclear who all has seen the footage. Under Vancouver’s new policies, city attorneys and the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office are able to review the video.
The policy also says, “Employees may view their own (footage) at any time in accordance with this policy.” Kapp did not answer when OPB asked who has viewed the footage so far, directing questions to the outside investigators.
Nickeia Hunter, vice president of the Vancouver of the NAACP, contended that officers shouldn’t be allowed to see the video before they are interviewed by outside investigators.
“The VPD leadership publicly and frequently justified the millions of dollars spent on (cameras) on the grounds that the camera’s transparency,” Hunter said. “if anyone from VPD, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, or their representatives, sees the footage before all the involved officers are interviewed by investigators, isn’t the integrity of the investigation already undermined?”