Video: NC officer shoots man brandishing gun
Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown blamed 'reckless and false information' posted on social media for inciting protests following the shooting
Anna Johnson, Jessica Banov, and Richard Stradling
The News and Observer
RALEIGH, N.C. — A 26-year-old man shot by a Raleigh police officer Tuesday night appears to be holding a gun in his right hand as he rounds a corner and comes face-to-face with the officer, according to video from the officer’s body camera released late Wednesday.
It’s not clear if the officer or the man said anything to each other, because the video released by the Raleigh Police Department doesn’t contain audio for those moments. The audio resumes after the man is lying on the ground with a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
Police say the video shows the encounter between Javier Torres and the officer who fired a single shot at him Tuesday evening behind a house on Duckling Way, off New Bern Avenue. Torres was taken to WakeMed.
The shooting sparked hundreds of people to march in protest through downtown late Tuesday night and early Wednesday.
With shouts of “no justice, no peace,” and some people wearing masks, the crowd was followed by a heavy police presence as the protesters went from Fayetteville Street to Hillsborough Street, to the governor’s mansion and then to Moore Square.
“I have kids, and this is my community,” said Wanda Gilbert Coker, a community activist. “We’re sick and tired, and in the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, and we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Earlier Tuesday night, a Raleigh police officer responding to a report of a man with a gun shot the man, identified as Javier Torres, near North Rogers Lane in the eastern part of Raleigh.
A handgun was found at the scene of the shooting, according to police.
On Wednesday afternoon, police said Torres has been charged with altering or removing a gun’s serial number; going armed to the terror of the public; and resist, delay, and obstruct.
In a pre-dawn news conference Wednesday, Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown blamed “reckless and false information that has been spread on social media” for inciting the protests. She said the body cameras worn by police will show those rumors were incorrect — including a rampant Twitter rumor that the suspect was just carrying a pizza box.
“You will see the individual does have a pizza box, but he also has a gun,” she said.
Torres was running directly at an officer with a gun, the chief said. The officer shot one time and the bullet hit Torres in the abdomen, she said.
Police Attorney Ashby Ray and Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman asked a judge Wednesday morning to release police body camera footage from the shooting. Judge Graham Shirley granted the release, saying it was in the public’s interest, and several video clips were made available at about 5:30 p.m.
Police responded to a call about a man with a gun in the 1000 block of North Rogers Lane about 6:40 p.m., according to a Police Department news release Tuesday night.
The caller said the man was “flashing” a gun and was accompanied by several other men, according to a recording of the 911 call released by police just after midnight Wednesday morning.
Torres ran when officers arrived, the police chief said at the press conference. Police chased after him and instructed him several times to drop his gun, she said.
Shortly after the shooting, protesters started mobilizing.
Raleigh-Apex NAACP President Gerald Givens arrived on the scene around 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to a press release posted on the group’s Facebook page.
Givens told The News & Observer that he spoke with one of Torres’ family members, who confirmed his age and condition.
“We’re going to have to wait for the video to be released and see what actually happened, and then we all need to go from there,” Givens said. “But wherever we go from there, it needs to be done peacefully and non-violent.”
Protesters march on police chief’s home
A leader of Tuesday night’s march was Rolanda Byrd. After her son, Akiel Denkins, was shot and killed by a Raleigh police officer in 2016, she began advocating for police oversight and police accountability.
“Thank you for the love that you have shown for the young man (shot) tonight,” she said around 2 a.m. “That’s why we are standing here tonight. Because they did that to my son four years ago. We are not going to stop.”
Zainab Baloch, an activist who has run for Raleigh mayor, told The News & Observer that the group had protested outside the police chief’s residence as well as Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin’s home.
“We need accountability, but we need power,” Baloch said, referencing a newly created police advisory board that critics argue lacks teeth. “We need a community board with power. ... Everyone is tired.”
Deck-Brown said she believes protesters crossed a line after coming to her home. “I understand the frustration but what happened tonight, last night, was wrong on a lot of levels,” she said in response to a question at the press conference.
Long-time community activist Octavia Rainey, who was with Coker Tuesday night, asked why police have to shoot someone rather than use other de-escalation techniques.
“The shooting is unnecessary, and the Police Department needs to look at that policy,” Rainey said. “And they can’t justify it. They’re shooting way too much now. It needs to be looked at by an outside entity now.”
The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting, which is standard protocol for shootings with officers.
The officer who fired at Torres was wearing a body camera that was activated during the incident, according to police. Other officers’ body cameras also were activated.
At the governor’s mansion, protesters pulled down and burned the United States and North Carolina flags.
While many left around 2 a.m., some gathered for another hour in a tense stand-off with police near Moore Square. Many stood in the middle of Blount Street until officers warned they’d face arrest if they didn’t move to the sidewalk.
Some people played music, danced and joked about keeping people awake in nearby apartments. A woman ran to the nearby McDonald’s and bought fries and chicken nuggets for the crowd. At the same time, people screamed and yelled about their interactions with Raleigh police, their voices breaking with emotion.
One woman, who would not provide her full name, lay down flat in the street, holding a sign over her head. The sign said “No Justice No Peace” on one side and “Justice for Soheil” on the other.
She said she was a friend of Soheil Antonio Mojarrad, a man with mental illness who was fatally shot by a Raleigh police officer in April 2019 in the same shopping center as Tuesday night’s shooting. The police officer’s body camera was not activated at the time of Mojarrad’s shooting, prompting a change in the city’s policy about when the cameras should be on.
At the press conference on Wednesday morning, Deck-Brown asked the public “not to rush to judgment. ... We ask that you allow this investigation to take its course.”
While she said she respected the right to protest, she added, “We ask the protesters to please conduct themselves within the boundaries of the law.”
“This is not who we are as a city,” Deck-Brown said of the damage caused by protesters overnight. “But it is also important that individuals who have a desire to voice their concerns. There is a method by which they can do that. Without damaging other people’s property. Without harming other folks. We saw that last night and early this morning.
The Raleigh Police Community Accountability Task force (Raleigh PACT) was created shortly after the 2016 killing of Denkins. Its members have continued to advocate for more police oversight. Members and leaders in PACT have spoken at Raleigh City Council meetings for years asking for a police oversight board with subpoena power.
Those efforts resulted in a series of community events and occasional protesters disrupting City Council meetings.
On Feb. 4, the council voted to create a police advisory board that would review the police department’s policies and procedures, but wouldn’t have investigative powers.
At the time, city leaders called it a “first step” but that it would make everyone happy. Applications for that seven-person board are now open.
But it’s still not enough, activists said during an impromptu gathering at John Chavis Community Park Wednesday evening. About 60 people gathered at the park and demanded action from the city council, the police chief and other community leaders.
After years of mistreatment and abuse at the hands of the police, people lashed out Tuesday night “the only way we knew how to,” Byrd said.
“I’ve been going through this the last four years,” she said Wednesday. “This isn’t about me and what happened to me and my family. This is about our city. And how we responded to these occurrences.”
But it’s not just the police abuse, said Surena Johnson, PACT coalition coordinator. It’s about gentrification and black and brown people not being able to find a place to live in the city they grew up in or feeling silenced by the recent dismantling of long-time Citizen Advisory Councils.
‘When you see the anger from yesterday from Rolanda, it’s a built up frustration,” she said. “We have been doing this for too long with no results. ... It’s not just the murders. It’s people being pulled over for bogus stuff. Because they say they smell marijuana. Because they are suspicious.”
Raleigh has to be held accountable, she said, rattling off the names of the mayor, police chief and district attorney.
“We can not be civil,” Johnson said. “We can not be diplomatic about things that are messed up. You are not supposed to. We are not going to be politically correct for any politician. Just for them to feel good about themselves or feel comfortable. Damn their comfort. .At the end of the day people are getting killed.”