Video shows officer open fire as man pulls, drops knife downtown

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WARNING: The video in this story shows body camera recordings of police shooting a suspect and profanity that some viewers may find objectionable.

SAN DIEGO – San Diego police on Wednesday released video footage of an officer shooting a 69-year-old man after he appeared to pull a knife from his back pocket during an encounter last week in the Gaslamp District.

The video posted on YouTube shows body camera footage from Officer Kelly Besker and a second unnamed officer interacting with Stephen Wilson just after 7 p.m. on Feb. 25 at Third Avenue and G Street. Prior to the shooting, Besker was speaking to a possibly intoxicated person when approached by a pedestrian who pointed out Wilson, noting he was “acting crazy” and had a knife, police say.

Video from the body-worn cameras shows Besker drive up near the intersection before exiting his vehicle and walking up to Wilson on the sidewalk.

Standing with a bowl of food in his hands, Wilson denied that he had a knife, telling the officer that he’s hungry and that a vehicle recently had struck his shopping cart, which scattered his belongings all over the sidewalk.

Besker can be heard speaking into his radio to say that Wilson doesn’t appear to be armed and then asks him to put down the bowl, to which Wilson objects.

“Get away from me,” Wilson said. “Don’t touch me. Back off.”

Seconds later, the unnamed officer walks up and asks about the “mess” on the sidewalk. Besker then tells Wilson that he’s observed a knife in his back pocket.

Video shows Wilson appear to reach for the knife with his left hand and drop it as Besker shouts, “Don’t grab that knife,” and opens fire on Wilson. Three shots can be heard in the video and Wilson is shown falling to the ground.

“Jesus Christ,” Wilson said. “I didn’t — holy f—. Oh my god. What was that, a Taser gun? I didn’t pull it on you. I didn’t … Jesus Christ. Did you shoot me? Oh my god.”

He suffered at least one bullet wound and was hospitalized in stable condition, the police say.

Police initially said Wilson “drew a knife and threatened the officer,” but after further investigation, revised their report to say he “drew a knife which threatened the officer,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. In the video, Wilson remains wordless as he pulls out and drops the weapon.

The investigation into the incident will be reviewed by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office to determine if Besker bears any criminal liability, police said. Additionally, the Internal Affairs Unit will determine if any policies were violated; the Shooting Review Board will evaluate the officer’s tactics; and the Commission on Police Practices will conduct a review and offer “appropriate recommendations,” according to the department.

The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will monitor the investigation.

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