Phoenix police release bodycam footage in fatal shooting of Jay Garcia

Phoenix police released body camera video Monday in the fatal shooting of Garcia after public demands for transparency from the department.

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By Doha Madani

Phoenix police released body camera video Monday in the fatal shooting of a man parked in a car in a driveway after public demands for transparency from the department.

Phoenix police released a nearly 12-minute video on its YouTube account Monday summarizing the events that took place leading up to the death of James “Jay” Garcia, 28, on the Fourth of July, with 911 audio and body camera footage. The video contains disturbing footage and profanities. The department also said unedited footage would be released to the media.

Officers responded to a 911 call on July 4 from a man who claimed a suspect who previously stabbed him was back in the Maryvale neighborhood, according to police. The man in the 911 audio released by police claimed that the suspect was “trying to kill me again.”

Body camera footage shows an officer knocking on the window of Garcia’s vehicle, which was parked in the driveway of a home near 59th Avenue and Indian School Road. Garcia told the officer he was waiting for his cousin inside the home, and the officer said he was investigating a crime in the area and asked Garcia to step out of the vehicle, according to the video.

“What did I do, though? That’s what I’m asking, what did I do?” Garcia said in the video. “You’re like, you’re going to get in trouble, what did I do?”

“We have to identify everybody in this house,” the officer responded.

Garcia then offered to give the man his name, telling the officer he did not have identification on him. Garcia told the officer his name was Samuels Garcia Salazar, but then hesitated and apologized. The officer then told Garcia not to lie and Garcia responded that he had a misdemeanor warrant against him.

“OK, I don’t care about a stupid misdemeanor ticket,” the officer said. “If you have a misdemeanor warrant, I don’t care.”

Garcia then said his name was John Salazar Banuelos and gave a false birthday of January 1, 1982, which would have made him 38.

A sergeant eventually came up to the car, according to the video, and asked why Garcia hadn't left his car. The sergeant told Garcia that they were investigating a stabbing at the house and needed to clear the area in case any shooting occurred.

“Right now you’re the only person still in my crime scene, you understand that?” the sergeant said.

Garcia insisted that he would wait in the car, despite the sergeant warning he would be removed from the vehicle otherwise. Garcia then rolls up his window, about 11 minutes after officers first make contact with him, and an officer sees a gun in the car, according to police.

Officers then surround Garcia’s vehicle once the gun is spotted and demand that Garcia put the gun down.

“Get your hand off the gun,” an officer said in the video. “Get your hand off the f------ gun.”

Garcia’s left side is partially visible in the body camera footage with his right side obstructed by the vehicle’s windows. One officer at the driver’s side window warned other officers that Garcia had a gun in his right hand, in his lap pointed down.

Officers then shoot Garcia through the window, according to the footage. At one point, the body camera footage shows an officer reaching into the driver’s side window and coming out with a gun in order to get Garcia to medical care.

The Phoenix police said in a statement along with the body camera footage’s release that detectives were able to identify Garcia through his fingerprints after the shooting and found outstanding felony and misdemeanor warrants for his arrest.

The detectives’ findings will be turned over to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for review, and Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams has asked the FBI to open an independent civil rights investigation into the shooting.

Officers Noel Trevino, 29, and Gregory Wilson, 31, were placed on administrative leave following Garcia’s death, which police noted was routine for a police-involved shooting.

Britt London, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, confirmed to NBC News that the union was representing the officers involved in the investigation into the shooting.

“We're glad that our officers were uninjured in this incident, and we ask that people reserve judgement until the investigation is complete," London said.

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.

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.

Daniel Ortega, a lawyer for Garcia’s family, was not immediately available for comment for NBC News.

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.