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Fleeing Man Had Phone in Hand When Police Shot Him Dead: Bodycam Videos

Culver City police released new bodycam videos contradicting a wife’s claim that she didn’t tell officers her husband had a gun before one shot him dead, but also showing that the man was unarmed when he was shot.

The Culver City Police Department released the edited videos Thursday in response to a civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of 39-year-old Guillermo Medina, who was shot as he ran from police following a vehicle pursuit after his wife called to report a domestic disturbance. Medina had a cellphone, not a gun, in his hand when an officer killed him.

The lawsuit alleges Adriana Medina called the Culver City Police Department station around 1 a.m. on Dec. 18 to report that her husband, who had paranoid schizophrenia, was banging on windows while experiencing a mental health crisis. At the time, Medina was off his medication and distraught, and his wife was seeking help for him, family attorney James DeSimone said in a news conference this week.

At the news conference, Adriana Medina said she did not tell police that her husband was armed. However, the recording of the call and bodycam videos released by the CCPD showed that while on the phone with a dispatcher, as well as when talking to a police officer at her home, she said she was afraid because her estranged husband had a gun and had been waving it around while pounding on windows as he tried to enter the residence.

The information about the gun was relayed to officers responding to the residence, and later to officers giving chase during the pursuit. The CCPD said that investigators later found a replica handgun in Medina’s SUV.

The recording of Adriana Medina’s call showed that a dispatcher also conveyed to officers that Medina was schizophrenic. Bodycam video showed police officers responding to the home shortly after Adriana Medina placed the call about her husband. An officer can be heard using a police vehicle’s PA system to tell Medina to walk toward police with his hands up. Instead, Medina took off in his SUV.

Bodycam video from an officer who stayed with Adriana Medina at the home during what the CCPD said was the nearly hourlong subsequent pursuit of her husband did not show that officer conveying to pursuing officers that Medina had schizophrenia. Adriana Medina said that for more than an hour, she repeatedly told the officer to use the police radio to inform his colleagues that her husband was in crisis, but he failed to do so.

During the pursuit, Medina was speeding and running red lights and stop signs. The CCPD said he also rammed a car with four people in it into oncoming traffic as he tried to get away from officers.

The chase came to an end when Medina crashed his SUV and the vehicle became disabled. That’s when he got out and tried to run away. DeSimone said Medina was slowly jogging and “laboring,” since it was impossible for him to run quickly due to a spinal fusion surgery.

The lawyer had said witnesses reported that officers did not give Medina any commands before they shot him. However, the bodycam video shows officers running behind Medina identifying themselves and telling him repeatedly to stop, while also threatening to shoot him if he didn’t stop.

Amid the chaos of the foot chase, an officer shouted repeatedly that Medina was reaching into his waistband. Medina tripped but got up and kept trying to run, at which point an officer yelled multiple times that he had a “gun in hand.”

About two seconds later, an officer fired twice at a fleeing Medina, according to a timestamp of the police bodycam footage. Medina dropped the phone as he fell to the pavement.

Just before the shooting, one officer was captured on bodycam video saying “cellphone.” The CCPD said that the remark was not captured in any other bodycam videos and that none of the other officers later noted hearing the remark during interviews.

Instead of providing immediate medical care after the shooting, the officers handcuffed Medina and left him on the ground for more than five minutes before rendering aid, DeSimone, the Medina family attorney, said. Police video showed officers performing chest compressions on the man, though it was unclear how much time elapsed before they did so.

Medics later tried to save Medina’s life as well, but he died splayed out on the pavement.

In a written statement following the release of the CCPD videos and call recordings, DeSimone said that Adriana Medina “was clearly distraught” when she called police, and she did not remember everything she had said. He argued, though, that the CCPD briefing of the incident demonstrated Medina was unarmed when an officer shot him.

“What the briefing makes clear is that Guillermo Medina did not have a gun on his person when he was shot in the back and killed and the officers observed that it was a cell phone in his hand prior to shooting him,” DeSimone said.

Through a spokesperson, the attorney said the lawsuit is still ongoing. Medina’s family is calling for criminal charges against the officers involved in his killing. They are requesting a jury trial, as well as unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.

The lawsuit also alleges Culver City and its police department fostered a culture of excessive force by, in part, failing to appropriately investigate use-of-force incidents and failing to discipline officers who use excessive force. The city said it could not comment due to “the pending criminal investigation, as well as pending claims and potential litigation.”

The police department noted Medina’s shooting is being investigated by California’s justice department and attorney general’s office, as well as the CCPD’s professional standards unit and the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.

“He was mentally ill and it wasn’t his fault. He needed help, not death,” Adriana Medina said this week.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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