The man fatally shot by police outside a Safeway two weeks ago pointed a gun at officers and possibly fired first, body-worn camera footage released Friday shows.
In the video, 43-year-old Joshua James Wilson clearly points what appears to be a gun at one officer while sprinting away from a grocery store and other officers, before gunshots erupt in rapid succession. Police said Wilson fired his weapon first. A responding officer opened fire quickly after confronting Wilson.
The footage provides a newer and closer look at the May 30 shooting than has previously been shown to the public. A video recorded by a bystander and uploaded to social media showed multiple armed officers but did not capture Wilson.
The officers are not named in the video. The Vancouver Police Department did not identify which body camera belongs to which officer.
On Thursday, investigators named the involved officers: Vancouver detectives Colton Price and Aaron Yoder, Officer Brandon Riedel, and Clark County Sheriff’s Office detective Zach Nielsen.
The new footage shows what appears to be a uniformed officer hearing someone saying over the radio, “He’s got a gun! He’s got a gun!” By the time the video starts, the officer has already arrived at the west end of the shopping center. The officer parks his patrol car, confronts the running Wilson and yells “Drop the gun! Drop the gun!”
After Wilson is shot, officers can be seen in the video delivering medical aid.
According to court records, detectives had linked Wilson to a spate of criminal activity this spring, including multiple robberies. The 43-year-old had prior criminal convictions in both Oregon and Washington, including assault, theft, burglary and domestic violence.
Prior to the shooting, he was under Washington Department of Corrections supervision, court records show. And he was facing trial in Cowlitz County for allegedly being caught with guns and methamphetamine.
Wilson posted bail in Cowlitz County and traveled south to Clark County. Vancouver police believed he and another man burglarized a local bowling alley and held up two convenience stores, court filings show.
On May 30, a Vancouver detective reportedly spotted Wilson driving near the shopping center around 5:30 p.m. and followed him. Soon, at least two more detectives arrived at the scene.
“The suspect was seen parking his vehicle and entering the Safeway,” investigators said in a statement. “Several minutes later, he was seen exiting the store. When he saw police, he dropped a bag of items, displayed a firearm and ran westbound through the parking lot.”
Footage from two other officers, dressed in plain clothes that is typical among detectives, is seen in the video as well. Both men are holding rifles and are crouched behind an unmarked vehicle before saying “Go! Go! Go!” and starting a foot chase.
One of the officers yells “Get down! Police! Get down! You’re gonna get shot!” as he runs, rifle in hand, across the parking lot.
Vancouver Police Chief Jeff Mori released the video at his own discretion. Per Washington law, neither his agency nor the Clark County Sheriff’s Office are part of the investigation into whether or not the shooting was justified. A team from agencies in Cowlitz County is leading that investigation.
Mori, through a spokesperson, told OPB he planned to release the footage after investigators interviewed the involved officers.
Who viewed the footage prior to its release remains unclear, though investigators said this week that they had completed interviews with the officers. Civil rights organizations recently said they believe the involved officers shouldn’t be allowed to see the footage of a shooting prior to being interviewed. Vancouver’s policy states that employees can view their own footage “at any time.”
The release marks the first time police in Southwest Washington have provided body camera footage to the public following a fatal shooting. Residents for years had called for the technology. Calls picked up in 2019 when Vancouver police opened fire four times in a five-week span.
Last October, the city spent $5.5 million on a contract with Axon Enterprises, the Arizona-based vendor whose camera technology and TASER-brand weapons are used by agencies throughout the country.