CMPD releases bodycam footage from deadly officer-involved shooting

by: Tina Terry Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have released the body camera footage from a deadly September 2017 officer-involved shooting in northeast Charlotte. 

Activists call the videos concerning and that the videos clearly show Rueben Galindo put his hands in the air when officers directed him to follow their commands.

Several officers in the video can be seen approaching Galindo's north Charlotte apartment with guns drawn.

Earlier that night in early September, police said Galindo called 911 and told the operator in Spanish that he had a gun. Officers have said they told Galindo to drop the gun, but he didn't.

Officer David Guerra arrived at the apartment in the video.

From another bodycam, Galindo could be seen stepping outside when Guerra yells several demands at Galindo, some in Spanish:

"Rueben, policia, manos, manos, manos, manos, get down drop the gun do it now,” the officer said.

“Drop the gun."

Then in the video, officers yelled, "Shots fired. Shots fired Suspect down."

Activist Hector Vaca said he believes the video proves Galindo complied with the officer's demands.

"His hands were up in the air at least two seconds before they started firing, so that's one-two bang," Vaca said.

Police said in a news release that officers "fired their weapons after perceiving an imminent deadly threat." 

They said when Galindo called 911 he stated the "gun was not loaded", but "did not respond to numerous questions asked in Spanish about what he intended to do with the gun."

Police said they recovered a gun from the scene.

Vaca said Galindo's family has hired an attorney. 

Galindo's girlfriend said the video proves this shooting was "avoidable."

The district attorney is still investigating this case. 

The release of the footage comes about a week after a judge agreed to release the video.

"I don't enter this decision lightly. I believe this is (the) fair and just thing to do," the judge said in court Sept. 28.

There were objections from the District Attorney's Office, which said it could impact witness testimony and the investigation.

“When it’s a choice between transparency and finding true facts (in court), we will err on the side of true facts,” Assistant District Attorney Bill Stetzer said.

Attorneys for the two officers involved said the videos could also taint their jury pool if their clients are criminally charged.

“We had that with a juror in the (Randall) Kerrick case. She said she could be fair and impartial, but on her Facebook page she had something that said ‘Fry them all,’ and she was talking about CMPD,” Michael Greene, who is the defense attorney for Courtney Suggs, said.

The body camera video wasn't released until Friday because the judge wanted Charlotte-Mecklenburg police to redact parts of the video where children's faces can be seen, and so the assistant district attorney could meet with the Galindo family.

The following is a statement from the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office:

“Prosecutors met with Mr. Galindo’s widow and a family friend on Thursday to show them body-worn camera footage before it was publicly released. The District Attorney’s Office received the investigative file in this case from police earlier this week. Prosecutors will now begin to undertake a thorough review of all of the evidence in accordance with the DA’s Officer-Involved Shooting Resulting in a Fatality Protocol, which was designed to ensure that a professional, impartial and responsibly transparent review is conducted of every officer-involved shooting. Pursuant to the protocol, the office anticipates this review to be completed within 90 days. Video footage is only one piece of an extensive investigation, and the District Attorney’s Office needs the necessary time to complete the meticulous and comprehensive review that this case deserves.”

The Latino community and activists said they pushed for the release because it would show if police tried to communicate with Rueben Galindo in Spanish before killing him.

Police and the city of Charlotte also wanted the body camera video to be released.

[PAST COVERAGE: 2 CMPD officers on leave following deadly officer-involved shooting]

The group Action NC worries Galindo did not understand police because there was a possible language barrier.

"The family needs to know; they need to know what happened,” said Hector Vaca, with Action NC.

Earlier in September, Galindo called 911 and asked authorities to come to his house on Prospect Drive in northeast Charlotte.

He told dispatchers he had been drinking and that he had a gun.

While there was some confusion about how he wanted to use that gun, 911 dispatchers said Galindo told them he wanted to turn himself in for something. Channel 9 obtained that 911 call earlier this week.

Officers said that when they got there, Galindo was holding the gun, so they told him to drop it.

In the audio recording obtained by Channel 9, you can't hear police give any commands in Spanish before they shoot and kill him.

Some neighbors had wondered if police tried hard enough to communicate with Galindo, who only spoke Spanish, and make clear he needed to put his gun down.

The calls detailed his conversation with a Spanish translator during the 911 call.

The translator asked him multiple times what kind of help he needed and why he was holding a gun.

But Galindo would only respond by saying, “Will you be coming here or not?”

“OK, interpreter, I’m not sure if you told him this. I already said yes. That’s no longer a part of the question, OK? We need to ask him what’s going on; what is he going to do with the gun? Is he going to kill someone? Is he going to harm himself?” the dispatcher asked after asking Galindo the questions several times.

During the call, Galindo said he didn’t plan on hurting anyone.

“No, I just want them to pick me up. I want to turn myself in, that’s all,” Galindo said through a translator.

Ruben Galindo

Police at the scene said Galindo refused to the put down the gun despite being ordered to do so in both English and Spanish.

Hector Vaca, of Action NC, has an ear out for answers and clarity.

“Nowhere do you hear in the audio that police told him to put the gun down,” Vaca said.

The local advocate is questioning the officer-involved shooting.

“You need to tell me if you're coming here or not,” Galindo told dispatchers. “I'm going to put my firearm in front of me. Are you coming or not, because I can't anymore."

 Vaca asked if the commands to drop the gun were in Spanish.

“That will show whether police really did say to put the gun down or not, because you don't hear it in the audio,” Vaca said.

The two officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave.

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