Newly-released video is being used by the estate of a dead suspect to claim that his shooting last year amounts to “murder.”
I wouldn’t recommend rushing to that judgement.
Two Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department officers were struggling to arrest a non-compliant suspect, known gang member Noel Aguilar, in this 2014 incident.
“Officer 1” Albert Murade confiscates a handgun from suspect Aguilar and pushes it into the front of his pants to control it. “Officer 2” Jose Ruiz is not apparently aware Aguilar’s gun has been secured, and draws his duty weapon during the struggle with what he perceives as a still-armed suspect.
Officer Ruiz then discharges a round into his partner while struggling with suspect Aguilar. He doesn’t say anything. Based on his total lack of a reaction, he may not have been immediately aware that a shot was fired, or if so, that his gun fired it.
Instead of immediately complying with officers after the shot was fired and Officer Murade screamed he was hit (as someone with an IQ higher than his shoe size would do), Aguilar continues to struggle, and a second round is fired. It appeared to me that Aguilar and Officer Ruiz both had their hands on Ruiz’s gun when this shot fired. It was later determined that the second shot hit Aguilar.
Officer Murade responds to this second shot, both of which he seems to think were fired by Aguilar, by drawing his gun and firing three shots into what he assumes is an armed suspect’s back in an effort to neutralize the threat.
Aguilar goes limp for a moment, and Murade holsters his weapon. Then Aguilar resumes struggling.
I’d argue that from Officer Murade’s perspective, this was a clean shoot. He’d already pulled one gun off Aguilar, had been shot as the three men struggled, and it reasonably seemed to him that Aguilar had a second gun and was firing it. He then drew his weapon and fired three shots to stop the threat, and ceased firing and holstered his weapon as Aguilar went momentarily limp.
From Officer Ruiz’s perspective, he never saw Officer Murade get Aguilar’s early in the struggle gun, as he was facing the other way, attempting to control Aguilar’s right arm. He asks Aguilar where his gun is after Murade was shot. His second shot was indeed fired as he and Aguilar struggled over the officer’s weapon.
It’s clear that both officers were suffering from an intense adrenaline dump as a result of the fight, as evidenced by their auditory exclusion. They repeatedly call for the street address so that they can get an ambulance dispatched, but even though they are clearly told the street number loudly and repeatedly by residents, they are incapable of hearing it for at least a half minute.
You hear one of the officers (presumably Murade) say, “he’s got another gun, or what?” as they continue to struggle with Aguilar, who has his left hand under his body and refuses to surrender for another two minutes, even though he’s been shot four times. He seems to resist arrest until he goes unconscious for no reason other than stupidity.
After finally cuffing Aguilar four minutes into the video, both officers continue to search for what they think was a second gun at the scene. Ruiz still seems convinced that Aguilar has a gun as other officers arrive, and says “check him, check him” almost seven minutes into the incident before finally allowing other officers swarming the scene to take over.
Noel Aguilar did not fire his gun at all during this struggle, but still clearly fought with officer’s for control of their weapons during their attempts to arrest him.
Officer Murade’s decision to fire three shots into Aguilar from behind after Aguilar struggled with Ruiz for control of his gun seems reasonable from my perspective, especially as he seemed to think that Aguilar was armed at the time.