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Police Likely to Release Body Camera Footage in Fatal Bronx Shooting, Commissioner Says

The encounter last week was the first fatal police shooting in New York City captured by body cameras.

Officers investigated a police shooting in the Bronx last week. The encounter was the first fatal police shooting in New York City captured by body cameras. Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times

The New York Police Department will likely release video from the first fatal police encounter captured by body cameras worn by officers, the police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, said Tuesday evening.

The encounter occurred last Wednesday, after the police went to an apartment in the Edenwald neighborhood of the Bronx to check on a tenant at the request of the landlord. After a lengthy standoff, two police officers fired their service weapons at the tenant in question, Miguel Richards, 31, who had met the officers at the door with a knife and was later seen holding what appeared to be a firearm — but was in actuality a toy gun, according to the police’s account of the shooting. Four officers who were present were all wearing body cameras.

Since then, the police have not released any footage of the encounter, the first fatal police shooting in New York City captured by the body cameras that are currently worn by just a small fraction of the patrol force. Days passed without public release of the footage, raising the question of whether this would emerge as a pattern in future cases.

But speaking at a New York Press Club event on Tuesday evening at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Commissioner O’Neill indicated that at least some of the footage would likely be released soon.

“We’re looking to release that video,” Commissioner O’Neill said. “I don’t have an exact date yet, but it should be soon.”

The New York Police Department has lagged behind other big-city police departments in adopting body cameras. They were initially hailed in recent years by police reform advocates as a tool for police accountability — one that would allow the public to judge whether a police shooting was justified. Some advocates, however, have cooled toward body cameras, either because they erode personal privacy or because some departments are enacting policies that do not ensure that the public has access to videos showing use of force, such as shootings.

Earlier this year, as the New York Police Department worked out details of its body camera program, the department left open whether it would release footage of police shootings, saying that it was still studying how other departments handle the issue.

On Tuesday, Commissioner O’Neill did not indicate whether the Police Department had yet settled on a more general policy for how to address the release of body camera footage.

Nor did he say whether the police intended to release the footage of the entire standoff, from the perspective of each officer’s camera, or a shorter compilation.

He noted that “once you release it, it can’t be taken back.”

By the end of the year, the commissioner said, about 1,200 officers will be equipped with body cameras.

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