It’s a matter of when—and not if—a Tucson police officer who fatally shot a man in a motorized wheelchair will be fired, police officials have said. Ryan Remington, an officer with the Arizona police department for four years, was working a security detail Monday night at a Walmart when he fired nine times at Richard Lee Richards, killing the 61-year-old man suspected of shoplifting and brandishing a knife, according to the Associated Press.
Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus announced at a news conference on Tuesday that the officer would be fired. “To be clear, I am deeply disturbed by officer Remingtons’ actions. His use of deadly force in this incident is a clear violation of department policy and directly contradicts multiple aspects of our use of force training,” Magnus said. “As a result, the department moved earlier today to terminate officer Remington.” Remington, however, can count on the police union to defend his reprehensible actions caught on police body-camera footage.
Police have said a Walmart employee told Remington that Richards had taken a toolbox from the Walmart without paying, so the employee and Remington followed Richards outside of the store and asking for a receipt. “Here’s my receipt,” Richards reportedly said, taking out a knife and moving toward a nearby Lowe’s, the AP reported. “Do not go into the store, sir,” Remington can be heard screaming in body-camera footage. At that point, Stephanie Taylor, another police officer, had arrived on the scene and had her gun out, The Washington Post reported.
That’s when Remington fired at Richards in close range, while his back was turned to the officer. Richards was hit in the back and side, and he was pronounced dead on the scene, the Post reported.
Warning: The video clips in this story contain footage of a police shooting that may be triggering for some viewers.
Mike Storie, an attorney for the Tucson Police Officers Association, told ABC-affiliated KGUN 9 Remington thought his use of force was “appropriate at the time he used it and he still does.” “What you saw was the police department’s edited version of this event, which was cut and pasted pieces of video of this event,” the attorney said.
The incident is under review by the Pima County Attorney’s Office, which would be responsible for bringing any applicable criminal charges against Remington. “I believe they will do the right thing,” Storie told KGUN 9. “They will take their time to review everything before they pass judgment.”
Storie told the AP in a statement that his client “had no non-lethal options.” “He did have a taser, but in his mind, he couldn’t use it because he didn’t feel he had the proper spread to deploy it, with the wheelchair between him and Richards,” Storie said.
He added to The New York Times: “Officers are trained that if they perceive a serious and imminent deadly threat, they are to fire multiple times until they perceive the threat is removed.”
Brick Storts III, a lawyer who represented Richards when he was facing a charge of transporting immigrants illegally, told the Times his client had been convicted of attempted first-degree murder as a teen but shooting him was “horrifying and over the top.”
“It was just so bizarre,” the attorney said. “I could understand how he could maybe be a problem, but you don’t shoot someone in the back nine times in a wheelchair. If you did it, you’d be looking at more problems than you’d care to believe.” Storts said Richards used a wheelchair after a hip replacement operation, “some infection problems,” and multiple physical issues.
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero called Remington’s actions “unconscionable and indefensible” in a statement the Arizona Daily Star obtained. “It is moments like this that test our resolve to ensure justice and accountability,” she said. “We owe this to all Tucsonans. I ask our community to remain calm and be patient as investigations ensue.” Romero added in a tweet on Wednesday: “The police union is not the most objective arbiter in this matter. The video speaks for itself. As I mentioned yesterday, I ask our community to remain calm and be patient as investigations ensue.”
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