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Morning Spew

The NYPD Killed Yet Another Person in Mental Distress—So Where Is the Body Cam Footage?

A long history of withholding crucial evidence, and other links to start your blustery Friday.

(Hell Gate)

Someone is experiencing mental distress. They call 911 for help. Or maybe it’s their family, or their neighbors, who make the call. Within minutes, that person is shot by the NYPD.  

For years, that narrative has repeated. Kawasaki Trawick. Deborah Danner. Raul de la Cruz. What happens after the shooting is also the same—the NYPD points to a weapon that they claim posed an imminent threat to their officers and justified force. And for weeks, often months, and sometimes years, that's all the public has been given to try to understand how someone who needed help ended up dead. 

On Wednesday, this all began playing out again. The NYPD killed 19-year-old Queens resident Win Rozario, after Rozario called 911 that afternoon as he experienced a mental health crisis. NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell told reporters that Rozario had lunged at two officers who arrived with a pair of scissors, and that even after tasing Rozario, officers still needed to shoot him to protect themselves. 

The NYPD immediately produced the photo of the scissors, and blasted it across social media. Rozario's family has contested the NYPD's version of events or that Rozario posed a danger to the NYPD, and said they were just trying to get him help. They've placed their hope in the body camera footage providing some light on what actually happened. 

“It’s on the body camera, so we will see," Rozario's brother told the Daily News

Chief Chell confirmed that the entire sequence of events was captured on body-worn cameras, but whether that footage actually comes out, and when, is entirely unknown. When these cameras were first introduced in 2014, the NYPD officials touted them as being able to bring clarity to interactions with police officers, especially following the deep contradictions between the police reports and bystander footage in the killing of Eric Garner. 

“This pilot program will provide transparency, accountability, and protection for both the police officers and those they serve, while reducing financial losses for the city," then-Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a joint statement with then-Public Advocate Tish James. 

But since their introduction, there's been no movement on legislation actually requiring the NYPD to release body-worn camera footage. Because of that, it's been a struggle for police accountability groups and families of the people the NYPD kills to get the full body camera footage. In the case of Kawaski Trawick, the NYPD never released the full videos, the Bronx District Attorney's office eventually released an edited video, and two years later, civil liberties groups had to sue to ultimately get the unredacted footage released—which contradicted the NYPD's version of events

At the same time, the NYPD strategically delayed the release of the video to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, a stalling tactic to make sure accountability never came for the officers involved. 

James, now the state Attorney General, could decide to look into the killing of Rozario based on a 2020 law that strengthened a 2015 Executive Order that empowered the AG to look into deaths at the hands of police. 

We've asked the NYPD when they plan on releasing the footage, and have not yet received a reply. We're not holding our breath. 

Some links for your Good Friday: 

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