Exclusive surveillance video shows Sacramento Police shooting, killing mentally ill man
Sacramento police on Tuesday released video that shows a mentally ill man running from police officers, then stopping to gesture at them before they shot him dead in July.
The police released the video and related audio hours after The Sacramento Bee posted surveillance video of the incident it had obtained earlier Tuesday.
Sacramento City Council members viewed the footage released by police in closed session Tuesday night. During the public portion of the meeting, Mayor Kevin Johnson promised to propose a set of police oversight reforms in coming days.
The mayor said he felt a “sense of urgency” for the city to take action.
Joseph Mann’s family says he was mentally ill and that police acted improperly by failing to de-escalate the July 11 situation. The family had asked for weeks to see video of the shooting but had not been granted access by city officials.
Sacramento police Chief Sam Somers Jr. called a news conference Tuesday afternoon with 45 minutes’ notice after The Bee posted the surveillance video. He released two 911 tapes, as well as three police vehicle dash-cam videos and the security video already posted by The Bee. The city and the Police Department previously rejected The Bee’s requests for audio and video, citing an exemption from public disclosure for cases under investigation.
Later Tuesday, the department posted the videos and related audio on its Facebook page.
Somers said that the department was taking the “unprecedented” step of releasing video because of “all the information out there.”
Mann, a 50-year-old black man, was armed with a knife and showing erratic behavior in the 15 minutes before he was shot by officers, according to witnesses.
North Sacramento resident Chris Gudis told a dispatcher he saw Mann with a gun, he said in an earlier interview with The Bee.
A second caller also told a dispatcher that Mann had a gun and knife, though she said she did not see the gun herself and was relaying information from someone else. The female caller also described Mann as mentally ill.
A dispatcher then told officers that Mann had a knife and gun, according to a tape released Tuesday.
But police have never found one and several other residents said they never saw a gun. Weeks after the incident, Gudis told The Bee, “I don’t know for sure exactly what it was. To me it looked like a gun.”
“We did not locate a gun in this matter,” Somers said. “When (officers) got to Mr. Mann, he did not have it. There was about a two-hour delay when investigators got out there and began canvassing. During the canvass, they were not able to locate it.”
Asked whether he was confident that Mann ever had a gun, Somers said he didn’t know.
The surveillance video obtained by The Bee shows Mann running from police as officers converge on him. They are still some distance away when he turns to face them and raises and lowers his arm three times. It’s not clear from the video what – if anything – he is holding. Two officers then fire a barrage of shots. Mann crumples to the ground. Officers approach him, and at least two of them appear to nudge him with their feet.
Witnesses said they called police after seeing Mann urinate on himself and tap at an imaginary keyboard on a residential street in North Sacramento. Witnesses also said he was tossing a knife in the air, catching it by the handle. The knife had a 4-inch blade, according to a police official.
When police arrived, a cruiser began following Mann as he made his way off the side street and onto Del Paso Boulevard.
Police were yelling at Mann to drop the knife, and Mann was yelling threats back at the officers, according to witnesses.
Mann then ran across Del Paso Boulevard, performing karate-type moves. More officers arrived, and Mann ran toward an “officer’s vehicle with a knife held above his head,” according to a police news release.
“The subject turned back towards them, armed with a knife. Fearing for their lives and the safety of the community, two officers discharged their firearms striking the man multiple times,” according to the news release.
Officers fired 18 rounds, hitting Mann 14 times, Somers said.
Police spokesman Matt McPhail said the department’s “use-of-force policy is in line with state law.” He said the policy “says officers can use force, a reasonable amount of force, and the term reasonable is based on circumstance ... to effect an arrest, prevent the escape of a suspect and to overcome the resistance of a suspect.”
The Mann family has filed both a federal civil rights lawsuit and a claim against the city charging that officers “confronted and aggressively pursued” Mann when they should have worked to calm the situation, according to attorney John Burris.
“It means a lot because ... it shows that this police department needs to be changed in the way we police our communities,” said Robert Mann, Joseph Mann’s brother, in response to The Bee obtaining the new surveillance video.
The Police Department does not provide officers with rubber bullets or bean bag guns, though it has given them to watch commanders and supervisors, Somers said. The department is examining whether use of such devices would improve its policing approach, he said.
City Council members said Tuesday night they would also consider policies on nonlethal force, and whether the department had enough nonlethal equipment.
The department has a grant-funded mental health clinician, but Somers said that person can only serve Sacramento’s downtown core. “We’d love to expand that,” Somers said.
“We place our officers day to day dealing with a challenging population, officers put out onto the street having to deal with tremendously dynamic situations,” Somers said. “They don’t have the foresight of exactly what’s going to happen. You can’t train for every type of situation.”
Johnson, who had called for the release of the video showing Mann being shot, said in a release, “We are all someone’s son, daughter, sister or brother – my thoughts are with the Mann family and the community.”
Somers said the Police Department will conduct a review next month to examine the circumstances of the fatal shooting. The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office is also examining a 1,200-page report completed by the Police Department’s homicide team.
Somers said findings from the review would determine whether the department will pursue an internal affairs investigation.
Burris in early August released a different bystander video of the shooting that shows police vehicles following Mann before he stops on the sidewalk in front of a wall. Moments later, police in the street can be heard firing multiple times, then rushing to Mann where he lies on the ground. But action in that footage was less clear than in the surveillance video obtained by The Bee.
Burris said the earlier video showed that police used increasingly aggressive tactics, and the surveillance video released by The Bee showed “no basis for the use of deadly force.”
“He was gesturing and pointing,” Burris said. “He was not lunging or charging, so from a police point of view, they should not have used deadly force at that time. They were in a position of safety. They could have remained in a position of safety.”
Bee staff writer Nashelly Chavez contributed to this report.
Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa