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What Do You Mean, 5 Shots in 5 Seconds?
Fri., Jan. 21: And other questions raised by the RPD’s report on Daniel Turcios' death-by-cop.
» RPD Report Raises Questions, Answers None
Before we begin, an option. Either watch the video below of Daniel Turcios being shot by a Raleigh police officer—content warning: Daniel Turcios is shot to death—or take my word for what’s in it. (Video courtesy Emancipate NC via WUNC.)
Now, here’s a link (thanks, WRAL) to the Raleigh Police Department’s 5-Day Report, the document the cops send the city manager whenever an officer kills someone. Read it in its entirety at your leisure.
RPD’s version of the events of Jan. 11 goes something like this:
Turcios was probably “intoxicated” and caused an accident.
Turcios was “armed with a knife,” which caused three cops to draw their guns.
The cops—and Turcios’ wife—repeatedly asked him to drop the knife. He refused.
Turcios tried to grab his 7-year-old, who was being treated for injuries suffered in the accident. His wife stopped him.
While Turcios was walking away, the cops tasered him.
When Turcios collapsed, several cops piled on top of him.
As they tried to handcuff him, “he swing the knife towards the officers, nearly making contact with Officer Begin.”
So Officer Smith double-tapped him. (Note: The video above cuts off here.)
About five seconds later, Turcios attempted to get back up, so Smith pumped three more bullets into him.
RPD has petitioned a judge to release body-cam footage.
Quick thoughts: I suspect there’s very little chance District Attorney Lorrin Freeman brings charges. But that doesn’t mean this encounter belongs in the Policing Hall of Fame. A man is dead, and he shouldn’t be.
So, questions …
» Was Turcios “Intoxicated”?
This incident took place after a violent collision in which Turcios’ vehicle rolled over. According to Emancipate NC, which held a press conference Tuesday on behalf of the family, he was unconscious for several minutes, suggesting that he was concussed. Emancipate NC also swears he was sober as a judge.
When Turcios got out of the car, he was staggering and, at least in hindsight, disoriented. His movements in this 30-second video had no apparent objective, but they don’t appear aggressive. Because he spoke limited English, he might have had difficulty understanding what the police were shouting at him, as well.
The RPD report made sure to note that one 911 caller said Turcios “appeared to be intoxicated.” Intoxicated, of course, means dangerous. If, however, he was acting odd because he’d just sustained a brain injury and they pumped him full of lead because of it, that wouldn’t look so hot.
So the innuendo is out there. If it’s ever disproven, chances are the media will have moved on. (How many reporters are still following the civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of Soheil Mojarrad?)
Put up or shut up: The report was released on Jan. 17, six days after Turcios’ death. I’m fairly certain you can run a tox screen in that timeframe. And I suspect that if Turcios had a scintilla of ethanol or a hint of a month-old Xanax in his blood, we’d know about it. I’d love to be proven wrong.
» Why Did Only One Cop Shoot?
This image comes after Turcios is tasered, collapses, gets up, and (allegedly) swings his pocketknife in the direction of Officer Begin.
There are four officers standing there, and another on the ground. Only one, Officer Smith, decided Turcios and his pocketknife were dangerous enough to warrant firing five times. From this image, he’s the only one who had his gun out.
The 5-Day Report explains this by saying he “provided cover” as the other four tried to apprehend Turcios. Watch the video again, right around the 20-second mark. Maybe you see something different, but to my eyes, he didn’t “provide cover” because he planned to. He “provided cover” because he was the only one who went for his gun.
Could these five men—who have tasers and batons and at least one of whom looks like he could bench-press a tractor—not subdue a concussed 43-year-old with a tiny pocketknife without shooting him?
Before you hit send: Spare me the “don’t second-guess split-second decisions” emails. This is their job—and not only are we paying them tax dollars to do it, but we’re giving them license to make decisions about life and death with very little recourse in civil court (i.e., qualified immunity) and very little likelihood that they’ll face criminal charges for screwing up. So you’re damn right I’ll second-guess them.
While we’re at it, I should be able to review their personnel records and internal affairs files, too. But that’s a different kettle of fish.
Completely random observation: In Great Britain, only specially trained cops carry guns. In the last 10 years, only 10 of its officers have been killed in the line of duty, and its officers have killed about two-dozen people. Maybe they’re on to something. North Carolina cops have killed five this month.
» What Do You Mean, Five Shots?
This one might be answered by the body camera footage, should a judge grant its release. But right now, I’m having a little trouble wrapping my head around this.
The witness video obtained by Emancipate NC ends after what the 5-Day Report says are two gunshots.
This frame comes at the 22-second mark.
Keep in mind that at this point, Turcios has been in a rollover traffic accident that rendered him unconscious, tasered, and shot two times at point-blank range.
Here is the final frame before the video cuts off, at 25 seconds. Turcios is now lying face-first on the ground.
According to the RPD, in the next two seconds, the man on the ground does this:
I’m not saying this didn’t happen. I just saying I’d really like to see that footage.
Quick note: I’m back in the writing-a-magazine-feature-and-hating-myself phase of life, so I’ll probably be posting erratically until it’s done—which could be next week, or the week after, but hopefully not much longer than that, because editors can get cranky. (’Sup, Kyle.)
BUT: Someone pitched me the seed of a possibility of the idea of a plan that would produce more Primer stuff all the time. If/when the details get worked out and anything comes of it, you will be the first to know.