The Sacramento Police Department on Monday evening released hours of video related to a Feb. 10 gunfight between officers and a parolee that became the test case for a new law requiring the department to release footage in critical incidents.
On YouTube, the department posted 21 clips of dashboard camera footage and police dispatch audio of the incident. None of the footage showed the moments in which parolee Armani Lee was shot or in which he allegedly fired at officers. All of the video appears to have been recorded after the gunbattle.
The department said in a news release that none of the officers involved in the shooting were wearing body cameras. The department released footage from police vehicles involved in the incident starting at 2 p.m., when dispatchers were notified that shots had been fired, until 2:16 p.m., when Lee was taken away by ambulance.
No officers were shot, but Lee was struck and transported to a local hospital. He has since been released and booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail on three felony counts of attempted murder and a felony charge stemming from an earlier incident.
The video mostly is taken from units that responded to the scene after the shooting. In audio and clips, it appears that officers were looking for a second suspect who may have fled into a nearby home. Three people in that house were detained, and officers with rifles spent several minutes commanding anyone else inside to come out. The SWAT team also was called in, but police said no arrests were made other than Lee.
Last week, interim police Chief Brian Louie asked the Sacramento City Council for a waiver allowing his department to withhold the videos, citing an ongoing investigation. His request was backed by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.
Council members declined to give him that waiver and insisted that police release the video as soon as possible in accordance with a recently adopted ordinance.
In November, the City Council passed a measure that required the department to release video in critical incidents such as officer-involved shootings. The Lee case is the first such incident since the transparency ordinance was passed.
At last week’s City Council meeting, Louie said he believed the waiver would be issued based on the ongoing investigation and said he took responsibility for the department being nearly two weeks past the measure’s deadline for asking for a waiver.
At the meeting, Louie said the department had not yet begun editing the video for release and was not able to say when the department would be able to release it.
Mark Harris, an attorney and activist who pushed for police changes last year, said that the handling of the Lee video was “shameful” and showed a need to put consequences into the ordinance for failure to adhere to its timeline. Harris said he planned to ask City Council for that amendment at this week’s Council meeting.
“Every other citizen in the city of Sacramento,” he said, “has to follow the rule of law or face consequences.”