The Saint Paul Police Department in Minnesota released body cam footage showing a suspect momentarily point his handgun at officers as he moves to raise the weapon above his head, prompting the officers to fatally shoot him.
Saint Paul Police Shooting
According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the incident began to unfold in the early mornings hours of Aug. 5 when the suspect, 43-year-old William James Hughes, allegedly became “verbally hostile” toward a roommate after falling out of bed. In his agitated state, Hughes drew a gun and discharged it two or three times into the bedroom wall. The gun then jammed, but Hughes cleared the jam and pointed the gun at his roommate’s head. The roommate fled from the house and called 911.
Officers Matthew Jones and Vincent Adams arrived on the scene shortly thereafter. As the Associated Press notes, the body camera footage shows them entering the enclosed porch and knocking on the front door. A man can be heard saying, “I will kill you,” in response.
Hughes then appears from another doorway. As soon as Jones and Adams see him, they order him to put his hands up. When the the officers see that Hughes is holding a gun in his right hand, they can be heard in the muffled audio telling him to put it down.
Instead of dropping the gun, Hughes raised it “in a sweeping fashion over the officers,” Saint Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell later told reporters. This action prompted Jones and Adams to discharge their service weapons, shooting Hughes multiple times and killing him.
Releasing The Footage
Axtell said he decided to break from tradition and release the body camera footage before the investigation into the shooting because he has “watched people repeat widespread rumors. I have seen protesters in the street and I know public angst can endanger our officers.”
The footage has prompted some, including John Gordon, the executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the ACLU, to question the officers’ actions that night.
“Having a gun, in and of itself, is not reason enough for someone to be shot,” Gordon said. “Officers need extensive training on how to secure an area and de-escalate dangerous situations so that shootings are a last resort, not a routine practice. That, unfortunately, did not happen for William Hughes.”
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said the body camera footage is “one critical piece of evidence” to examine. But he also said it “does not tell the entire story” of the incident. He added that he will look at the evidence gathered by BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension” surrounding the shooting. He will then determine whether or not the officers’ use of lethal force was justified.
Hughes’ relatives told police he had been suicidal in recent months over a terminal illness.
Saint Paul police told Fox 9 it wasn’t clear how long Hughes—a member of the White Earth Nation, a Ojibwa band in northern Minnesota—had lived at the home, but they did say they’d been called there 58 times over the last four years for a variety of incidents, including disorderly conduct, assaults and theft.