Chief defends cops who didn’t use body cams in fatal shooting

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SAN DIEGO -- Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman came to the defense Wednesday of two  motorcycle officers who did not activate their uniform-worn cameras during an attempted enforcement stop that ended in the fatal shooting of a fugitive from the East Coast.

"I want everybody to understand -- this was a rapidly evolving and dynamic situation,'' Zimmerman said about the events that led to the death of Lamontez Jones, 39, at a Gaslamp District intersection on Tuesday afternoon.

Jones ran off when one of the traffic patrolmen tried to contact him about making a disturbance and interfering with traffic near Horton Plaza about 2 p.m., according to police.

Jones, the subject of an outstanding armed-robbery arrest warrant out of Virginia, fled to the south and east for several blocks, ignoring repeated orders to halt, Capt. David Nisleit said. At Sixth Avenue and F Street, the suspect allegedly turned toward his pursuers and pulled a pistol out of a backpack he was carrying.

Fearing for their lives, the officers opened fire on Jones, who fell onto the roadway, Nisleit said. The suspect then began to sit up and raise the weapon once more, prompting them to shoot him again, according to police.

Medics took Jones to UCSD Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

The two involved officers, 25- and 30-year department veterans whose names have yet to be made public, told investigators had not turned on their body cameras because they simply did not have time, Nisleit said.

Department guidelines call on patrol personnel to activate the video and audio recording devices prior to most contacts with the public.

During a briefing early this afternoon, SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman said the two motorcycle officers did not violate the camera policy during the violent encounter, since the rule explicitly states that officer- and public- safety concerns trump use of the devices.

"When you’re looking down the barrel of a handgun officer safety, citizen safety whom we proudly serve is going take precedence," said Zimmerman.

The Chief said the traffic division was outfitted with the cameras in July and there is a learning curve.

"These are very veteran officers and to develop that muscle memory is going to take some time," said Zimmerman.

"The problem is it’s not a priority," said Chris Morris, Attorney.
Morris has prosecuted several cases involving police body cameras.  He was also the head of the criminal division under former City Attorney Mike Aguirre.  Morris said
"Cameras should have come on right when they began to interact apprehend, follow, chase, when they tried to contact this individual not when they're staring down the barrel of a gun," said Morris.
He said it all comes down to policy and what the San Diego Police Department needs is one with teeth.
"There has to be a punishment attached to non-compliance of the body cam policy," said Morris.
Nonetheless, department officials will review the policy with a mind toward possible improvements, according to Zimmerman. One such change possibly could involve a design change that allows for automatic activation of the cameras under certain circumstances, such as removal of an officer's gun from its holster, she said.

Jones was released from prison in Virginia early this year after serving several years for a manslaughter conviction, and arrived in San Diego on the lam only two days ago, Nisleit said.

21 comments

  • SubMOA

    Excellent training. If someone were pointing a gun at you, would you take 3 seconds to turn on a camera or would you take direct action against the threat? Well done boys! Thank you for everything you do.

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    • They didn't follow proceedure! Completely unacceptable!

      Laughable reasoning….Similar to break every rule but good job you successfully shot a guy holding a plastic gun!

      • WhyAreYouStealingMyOxygen?

        Your mother should have been sterilized before you were conceived. Stop stealing oxygen from productive members of society.

      • SubMOA

        Can you tell the difference between a real band plastic gun from even 10 yards? Too late. You’re dead. Good thing the camera is on though so your widow can see what happened.

      • oh please

        Wow all you trolls so brave speaking from behind a keyboard. With all you experience in risking you lives to protect others, being on the wrong side of a bad guys bad intentions, facing the wrong end of a bad guys gun you acted so completelyy brave and competent. Oh sorry I forgot you’ve never done any of that you just sit anonymouly behind a key board and speak ill of those who do for society what you have neither the intelligence or intestinal fortatude to do yourself, but I’m sure you must have stayed at a Holiday Inn…..

  • Liberals suck

    Motorcycle cops are for traffic enforcement not patrol officers……..obviously they weren’t prepared for this and they should have had their camers on…if traffic even has them at all.

  • Charles Ross (@cross6935)

    Patrol cop, Traffic cop, either one is required to use there cameras. after the first contact the cameras should have been turned on, at least one of them. I’m not denying there actions, but the question remains that there was time to activate the cameras. you get a call, turn on your camera. just as they want you to abide by the laws, so should they..

    • WhyAreYouStealingMyOxygen?

      Wow, maybe you should learn the difference between “their, there, they’re” and other basic grammatical concepts (we won’t even stretch it out to actually know what the law is) before you troll and make uneducated comments on anything.

      • Fu

        U sir, are completely idiotic. He used the their how it should be used. But ur a no life having troll so I should expect that from u

  • They didn't follow proceedure! Completely unacceptable!

    The procedure is to activate the cameras! This is unacceptable! If the police don’t follow procedure on something as simple as this they will shrug it off repeatedly in the future! We the citizens paid for the cameras to be used and it is not an option. Shelly make your officers follow procedure. They are making a joke of you and the taxpayers!

  • John Jones

    All these ignorant commentors have no idea what they are writing about. “They shoulda, it’s required, it’s the law.” get real, fools! The guy was aiming a gun at them. Go try it sometime.

  • Sam Carbs

    The cameras are pointless if they aren’t on… She said you have to turn them on …then that means they are never recording unless the officer thinks its ok… So the police are now going to have an excuse for any incident…

    • WhyAreYouStealingMyOxygen?

      It’s kind of like the excuse that your human mattress mother didn’t use protection before you were conceived – and now there is no excuse for you contaminating society with your clueless conclusions…..

  • Common sense

    Such perfect people you are. Even if they had those cameras on folks would still find a reason to complain. “Eh, why did they shoot so much? Eh, why didn’t they just shoot the gun out of his hand!” STFU already. Focus on your boring life and good things might finally start happening to you. How about you strap a camera to yourself and let us watch what a boring, pathetic and bland life you live.

  • BugDawgK9

    Chris Morris to far left from the truth. When he can come out and demonstrate how to activate a body camera at the snap of a spontaneous encounter, then we will talk about a policy with teeth. Morris and Aguure are too naive and have their own agenda beating with their drums. This incident just goes to show how dynamic an enforcement action can go from 0-100MPH in a snap of fingers.

Comments are closed.