Fort Worth police on Thursday released dramatic body camera footage that captured the scene when three officers opened fire on a wanted man Sunday — evidence that city leaders say shows the officers acted appropriately.
The footage shows how it all started – with a foot chase after a traffic stop.
JaQuavion Slaton, a 20-year-old man wanted on an outstanding aggravated assault warrant stemming from an incident in Tyler in April, was running from police officers.
“Get on the ground,” an officer yelled during the chase. “Gun, gun, gun, gun, gun
Frozen shots from the video show what appears to be a gun in the wanted fugitive’s hand.
Officers lost sight of Slaton but took a 17-year-old who also ran into custody without incident.
Police desperately questioned him about what happened to Slaton.
“Where’s the other guy? Where is he? You better let us know!” an officer told the teen. “Where’s the gun you had? Some kid is going to find that gun. Where is it?”
Officers quickly located Slaton, hiding in a pickup truck. But police said he didn’t give up and had his gun in his hand.
When he moved, officers responded.
“Put your hands up, put your hands up. He’s reaching,” officers shouted.
Three officers opened fire and immediately called for an ambulance.
Police also released a photo of his gun — a Glock.
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner on Thursday said Slaton used the weapon to shoot himself in the head about the same time officers opened fire.
Any of the shots would have been fatal, except for one that hit his arm, the medical examiner said, noting the cause of death was still listed as homicide but that the investigation was continuing.
Police Chief Ed Kraus and other city leaders said any loss of life is tragic, but also backed up the officers’ decision to use deadly force.
“They gave him several lawful orders and unfortunately he failed to comply,” Kraus said. “To our community that is hurting and questioning our commitment to transparency we hope today’s information will provide answers and help heal.”
Mayor Betsy Price agreed.
“This young man made a mistake of not surrendering when he should have and put our officers in jeopardy, or so they felt,” she said.
Fort Worth Police Officers Association President Manny Ramirez said he wished the department could have released the videos earlier but was pleased the public could now see them.
“Well I think the information, the true story coming out is very important. As quick as we can get the true narrative out there, it kind of defeats the false narrative that’s out there that’s so damaging to our communities.”
Still, some people in the community don’t agree with the department’s narrative.
“My community right now … they do not trust the police,” said Richard Vazquez, a political leader in the Stop Six neighborhood where Sunday’s shooting happened. “My community right now is shouting ‘fake news’ all day. They’re shooting ‘fake news.’ They don’t believe he shot himself in the head first.”
Vazquez also said police should also release all body camera video and not edited snippets.
Thursday night, NBC 5 sat down with three more pastors and community activists who said the city needed to overcome a “chasm of distrust” to begin healing divisions
“We know that to others who are not in our community, that it appears as if it’s unreasonable,” said Dr. Michael Bell of his community’s distrust. “But see, the context is different.”
Bell along, with pastors B.R. Daniels and Bishop Mark Kirkland were among a group of ministers invited to watch the body camera video Thursday morning. But it didn’t answer all their questions.
“We don’t want to see it sliced and diced, we want to see all of the footage,” Kirkland said. “Don’t lead us to a conclusion, allow us to come to that conclusion.”
Police said they did plan to release all the video in the future, but did not provide a timeline.
Kirkland also questioned why officers didn’t back up and try to de-escalate the situation.
“They had an opportunity to retreat,” Kirkland said.
The ministers also objected that they couldn’t see everything in the video that police described.
“We did not see anyone with a weapon in that cab,” Bell said.
“We’re left to patch in here and patch in here and assume here and finish the story out on our own, that’s not going to fly with our community,” Daniels said.
The reason comes down to trust. The ministers were among those venting frustrations at city council this week.
“People yell when they’re not being heard,” Daniels said.
They said the city has failed to act on past proposals that could have helped ease tensions.
“There’s no follow through,” Bell said.
And they worry this case will be the same.
“Thank the chief for his effort, his step toward transparency, but that’s one step in a million,” Daniels said.
Right now, the pastors said they were looking for results from Fort Worth’s Race and Culture Task Force, including starting a police oversight board.
City leaders told NBC 5 they were planning to hire a “police monitor” this fall as part of the 2020 city budget to start up that board and begin reviewing police investigations.