Family of Jay Garcia not satisfied with public body cam release by Phoenix police

“As with other police shooting cases, our family and the community are unjustifiably left without answers," Denice Garcia told reporters Tuesday.

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By Doha Madani

The family of James “Jay” Garcia, who was fatally shot by Phoenix police while parked in a driveway, is demanding the department release all unedited body camera footage of the incident, though police said the footage was available upon request.

The man’s mother, Denice Garcia, and sister, Jacqueline Fernandez, told reporters Tuesday that the summarized footage released by Phoenix Police Department on Monday was not enough to provide answers in his death. Denice Garcia demanded that unedited body camera footage for all the officers involved and any dash camera footage be released.

“It is not uncommon for young Latinos and Blacks to die at the hands of law enforcement,” Denice Garcia said. “As with other police shooting cases, our family and the community are unjustifiably left without answers.”

She described her son, the father of three children, as a kindhearted and compassionate man who they are now left to grieve without answers for his death.

Phoenix police released a nearly 12-minute video summary of body camera footage on Monday, which showed officers asking James Garcia to leave his vehicle as they looked for a possible stabbing suspect in the Maryvale neighborhood of Phoenix on the Fourth of July. The video contains disturbing footage and profanities.

Sgt. Mercedes Fortune, public information officer for the Phoenix Police Department, told NBC News on Tuesday that the department’s vehicles are not equipped with dashboard cameras. Fortune also told NBC News that all body camera footage from all the officers directly involved in the incident were released to those who requested them, outside of the critical incident briefing posted Monday.

NBC News has reached out to the city’s department of public records Tuesday for a copy of the unedited body camera footage of the officers directly involved in the shooting.

The video showed an officer speaking to James Garcia in an attempt to get him to exit his vehicle, which the 28-year-old did not want to do. Garcia told officers he preferred to wait the situation out in his car and gave a false name when asked to identify himself.

At one point in the video summary, an officer said Garcia had a gun in his right hand, pointed down and in his lap, and several officers surrounded the vehicle. The windows of the vehicle were rolled up, obstructing the right side of Garcia’s body from view.

Officers then shot Garcia through the window after asking him to put the gun down, according to the footage.

In a different clip, an officer is seen reaching in with a gloved hand and pulling a gun out of the car.

Police also said in the release of the video that detectives were able to identify Garcia through his fingerprints after the shooting and found outstanding felony and misdemeanor warrants for his arrest.

Denice Garcia said after numerous viewings of the video, she did not see a gun in her son’s hand, and nowhere in the video did it show him pointing a gun at officers.

“But what I did see was my son doing was talking with his hands, holding a cigarette, and then trying to defend himself,” she said to reporters Tuesday. “But at no point did I ever see a gun, which is extremely important that we see all of the body cams.”

Jacqueline Fernandez, James Garcia’s sister, also stated that the family wanted to see footage from an SUV parked in front of her brother’s car that was seen in the video.

“The story that they’re portraying my brother to be some bad person, it’s all false,” Fernandez said. “And those body cams and that camera from that truck will give us the truth.”

Garcia’s death was met with public outrage as Phoenix residents expressed their distrust in the police department, demanding more transparency and accountability through protest.

Denice Garcia, mother of James Garcia, who was shot last week by Phoenix police, speaks during a news conference in front of police headquarters on July 8, 2020.Ross D. Franklin / AP file

A vigil was held for Garcia at the home where he was shot, and a group of protesters gathered at Phoenix police's Maryvale precinct two weeks ago to demand that the department release full videos of the incident.

Williams responded to the demands with a promise to release the body camera footage within two weeks, an accelerated timeline to the standard 45-day policy the department has in place.

Instances of lethal force by police, particularly when minorities are involved, have come under heightened scrutiny since late May when George Floyd died while in custody of Minneapolis officers. Floyd's death has sparked protests against police brutality and systemic racism across the world.

Activists have called for a number of police reforms, including more oversight and reducing funding for departments across the country to be diverted into more community programs.

The Phoenix City Council approved funding last month for the city's first police review board, the Office of Accountability and Transparency. The civilian-led board will receive $3 million from left over coronavirus relief money, though activists pushed for the funding to come from the police's budget.