PEORIA − Compelled to provide the community more answers, Police Chief Eric Echevarria released body camera videos during a press conference Friday that showed a man pointing a handgun at Peoria officers seconds before he was shot.
The chief acknowledged the Illinois State Police hasn't completed its investigation into the fatal shooting of Samuel Vincent Richmond in October, and said many of the details involving the shooting could not be released.
But as both he and Mayor Rita Ali said, they wanted to provide more details in the spirit of openness and transparency.
"Our community has a right to know more," Ali said.
During Friday's 18-minute press conference, Echevarria released the names of the four officers who were involved in the fatal shooting. They have been on paid leave pending the outcome of the state investigation. The officers are:
Candice Fillpot, who has been in the department for 17 years
Christopher Heaton, who has nine years on the force.
Danny Marx, who has six years on the force.
Andrew Fuller, who joined the department two years ago.
Video and audio reveal critical moments of encounter
Richmond's friend called emergency dispatchers twice around 10 p.m. Oct. 3 to report Richmond had driven off from the friend's house in a Chevrolet Impala and was talking about suicide. That had been previously reported by the Journal Star, which found court records detailing a handwritten note to a friend by Richmond.
But the audio from the first call and a second call from the same friend, convey more of a sense of urgency than court files did.
The second call states the friend told 911 dispatchers that Richmond was at a pavilion in the park. The friend wanted to go to the park and talk to Richmond but the dispatcher urged him to stay at his home in Spring Grove, a South Peoria subdivision, to wait for police.
Officers were called to Martin Luther King Jr. Park about 10:06 p.m., when a ShotSpotter alert indicated one round was fired in the 700 block of West Hurlburt Street. Then about five minutes later, there was another ShotSpotter alert in the 800 block of West McBean Street. The two streets are on opposite ends of the park.
Police released the radio traffic that starts off quiet and normal, but it escalates quickly. An officer screams "shots fired." The radio frequency matches up with the body camera footage as the officer is screaming for Richmond to "drop the gun."
After the shooting, officers carrying shields as cover are seen on a different officer's body camera walking up to Richmond. One officer begins CPR while another searches Richmond for other weapons. When asked if that was the proper procedure, Echevarria said that officer safety is paramount and reiterated that Richmond was "pointing a gun at my officers."
Why did police release video and audio now?
The chief had said shortly after the shooting that Richmond was armed but Friday was the first time he's stated Richmond pointed a gun at police.
Just last month, the Peoria Police Department denied Freedom of Information Act requests by the Journal Star for the the bodycam footage and the 911 audio tapes that were released Friday and posted on the city's website.
After the press conference, an email from the city to the Journal Star stated that while the paper's previous FOIA had been denied, the "City has consulted key stakeholders during its investigation and determined it is now appropriate to release certain responsive audio and video recordings related to the incident. "
The state police are required by law to investigate when there is an officer-involved shooting, and local police typically decline to comment until the investigation is finished.
During the press conference Friday, Echevarria said the release would not "negatively impact the work of the state police." He declined to comment on what had changed from last month to Friday. He also said that releasing the 911 tapes and the body camera footage would not set a precedent if there are future incidents where an investigation was prolonged.
Rather, the chief said, his department would look at things on a case-by-case basis and decide upon what was relevant at the time.
'More questions than answers'
Richmond, 59, who went by the nickname "Meatman," was a father of eight. His family and friends have been demanding answers from City Hall as well as the state police regarding what happened that night.
The chief said the family was told about the press conference and that he has been in regular contact with them.
"The press conference left more questions than answers," said Chama St. Louis, who is acting as a spokeswoman for Richmond's family. "I don’t think it proves that the situation was handled in the appropriate manner from start to finish. The press conference stated they were in the area because of a Shot Spotter, but the 911 call indicated they were in the area because a concerned friend called and said he was suicidal.
"It also doesn’t show that the officer having announced himself prior to chasing Mr. Richmond through a pitch black park. How can we be sure Mr. Richmond wasn’t afraid for his life?" St. Louis said. "I think it’s disingenuous for the police and city to say they’re committed to transparency but leave out crucial details that matter that lead up to the shooting."
As to whether the four officers followed established protocol, Echevarria said the ISP investigation wasn't completed and he could not comment.
This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Peoria police video shows key moments in fatal shooting of popular man