GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — New questions are surfacing about body camera video from the night a Grand Rapids police officer says he accidentally fired his gun, with the video released last week not showing the situation from beginning to end and the police department saying that’s because the officer turned off his camera while driving to the scene.
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, News 8 obtained two video clips from the Dec. 9 incident.
Officers with the Grand Rapids Police Department had spotted a vehicle they believed to be stolen. The driver pulled off near Cass Avenue and Sycamore Street SE and went inside a home. Officers set up a perimeter, and once the driver went back outside they surrounded him.
While they were moving in on the driver, an officer fired his gun. No one was injured, but it did damage a home.
The video released Thursday by the Grand Rapids Police Department shows the officer in his car and then jumps to four minutes later, when the officer’s gun goes off while approaching the driver outside of the house.
Immediately after the shot is fired, Officer Gregory Bauer said it was him and that he had tripped.
When asked to see the footage leading up to when the shot was fired, GRPD said News 8 received the entirety of the officer body-worn camera and in-car camera footage. Further questions about a four-minute gap in the video were forwarded to the department’s FOIA coordinator.
On Tuesday, the city said in an email to News 8 that the officer shut off his body camera while on the way to the scene and that it activated again while the situation was ongoing.
“This deactivation and activation explains the perceived time gap in the footage,” the city noted.
The city also said “the videos that were provided were produced for internal purposes and should not be considered complete to all FOIA requests.”
“The officer deactivated his body worn camera while driving to the incident and then the camera was reactivated during the incident. The video released to this point was responsive to a very narrow FOIA request. A larger FOIA request, that is still being processed, may include additional video of the incident and will be released as allowed by policy and law. Due to the ongoing internal investigation we will decline to comment further on the specifics of the incident.”City of Grand Rapids, Feb. 8, 2022
The city’s policy on bodycams says:
“1) Officers shall activate body-worn cameras during contact with the public to accomplish the goals of this policy as outlined above. This includes but is not limited to arrest situations, calls for service, field interrogations, vehicle stops, prisoner transports, investigative activity, or any other duty-related, official contacts with the public.
“2) Officers shall not deactivate the body-worn camera system, once activated, until he or she has disengaged contact with a witness, complainant, victim, or suspect, subject to the following exceptions:City of Grand Rapids administrative policy
a) De-activation is approved by a supervisor;
b) When recording an event will compromise the safety of a civilian or an officer; or
c) When an officer is interacting with a member of the public in a matter of an exceedingly sensitive or private nature, including but not limited to the following:
i. An informant providing the intelligence of criminal activity.
ii. Death notifications.
iii. Interviews of victims of criminal sexual conduct.”
News 8 asked the city if it was investigating whether the officer violated that policy; a spokesperson said he could not discuss the details of the investigation.
After reviewing the video Monday, a former police officer with 36 years in law enforcement said it’s what we don’t see that’s concerning. James Howard, CEO of Trinity Security Services, said the camera should have been rolling throughout the incident.
“I’m disappointed that the department did not show you the whole video,” Howard said. “I think they should have showed you everything, because when they do something like this it makes me feel like they’re trying to hide something.”
Howard said accidental shootings do happen and he doesn’t necessarily agree with the officer facing criminal charges in such case. However, Howard said he can’t determine what to make of the incident without the seeing what led up to the shot being fired.
“Something happened between the time we see him driving to the time he says, ‘That was me, that was me, I tripped,'” Howard said. “(Something is) missing and that causes me concern.”
Daevionne Smith, who says he was nearly struck by the bullet, also wants to see what happened before the gun went off.
“It’s a lot of questions,” Smith said. “Why are things not being shown and why are things only partial truths like, show us everything, lay it out on the floor.”
Police were searching for a stolen vehicle when they approached Smith, thinking he was the driver. Smith turned out not to be the person police were looking for, and he wasn’t driving the same model car.
*Correction: A previous version of this article included an incorrect transcription of a statement from the city, which changed the sentence’s meaning. We regret the error, which has been corrected.