Something was not right with Richard John Sanchez. The 27-year-old had gone to his sister-in-law’s house in San Bernardino, California, on September 28, 2018, with his gun. She later called the police to report that Sanchez was drunk and irrational, and threatening her family.
She fled with her children, and the police arrived shortly after that. A few minutes later, a police officer shot Sanchez five times, killing him. At the time, Sanchez had dropped his gun and was holding his hands up in surrender.
The Body Camera Footage
The body camera footage, released by the San Bernardino Police Department (“SBPD”) on October 25, 2019, shows Sanchez walking toward the two officers when they arrived. An officer tells him to drop the gun, and Sanchez complies. He places the weapon on a sofa. Officers then tell him to put his hands up, and he obeys them.
Sanchez continues walking with his hands up. An officer tells him to stop, but Sanchez keeps walking. That’s when one of the officers, Brandon Gaddie, opened fire. Sanchez falls onto the lawn, and a woman’s screams are heard. He later died at a hospital.
Did Not Meet the Standards
Unlike events in some high-profile police shootings, the SBPD did not try to defend Gaddie’s conduct. The body camera footage gave them little choice. The acting police chief, Eric McBride, stated that the officer was no longer on the force, although he did not say whether Gaddie was fired or resigned. McBride added that the San Bernardino District Attorney is looking into criminal charges.
The officer’s decisions “did not meet the standards held by our department or the community we serve,” according to McBride. Gaddie’s partner, who did not shoot at Sanchez, remains on the SBPD in full duty.
Family Praises SBPD
Sanchez’s family praised the SBPD for “swiftly” accepting responsibility for Richard’s death. In a statement, the family notes that although Richard’s death lives a “void that cannot be filled,” they were “honored and encouraged” by the response of the SBPD. The “investigation into this tragic incident was aimed at uncovering the truth, even when this meant acknowledging the mistakes of a fellow officer,” according to the statement.
While perhaps it is heartening that some law enforcement entities are holding themselves accountable for these deadly incidents, it is hard to deny the reality of two officers’ bodycam videos. Without such footage, or if both the body cams were mysteriously not working or not turned on, the response of the SBPD may well have been different.
Shooting a man multiple times when he has no weapon, and his hands up are not something any police department should excuse. However, since there are departments out there that probably would try to defend such behavior, the SBPD does deserve credit for doing the obviously right thing.
People have the right not to be abused, beaten or wrongfully imprisoned. If you or a loved one has suffered mistreatment by police in or out of jail, you have legal options and may be entitled to compensation. CALL US at 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn how we can help you file a federal civil rights lawsuit.*
*Our practice is limited to serious injuries, wrongful imprisonment, and death cases. We regret that we cannot accept every case.