The family of a man Phoenix police killed last week spoke outside the department’s headquarters on Thursday to demand police release body-camera video of the shooting.
James “Jay” Porter Garcia, 28, was inside a parked vehicle on a driveway of a friend’s house in Maryvale when he was shot by two police officers on the Fourth of July.
“As a mother, I am brokenhearted for the loss of my son James,” said Denice Garcia, who is the vice president of the Cartwright School District governing board.
Various civil rights groups and state legislators joined her in front of Phoenix Police Department headquarters demanding that the department release all body-camera footage of the shooting.
Grief for James Garcia
“He was an awesome young man. He would do things for other people without having to be asked,” his mother said, standing next to her daughters.
He worked at Bank of America. They said he was funny and compassionate — always willing to help out others. He was a brother to his sisters and a father to his children.
“I’m devastated,” she said. “It is not uncommon, however, now, that Latinos and Blacks die at the hands of law enforcement. As with other police shooting cases, our family and the community are unjustifiably left in the dark for long periods of time.”
Garcia said her family and others deserve to know how their loved ones were killed and why law enforcement felt lethal force was the necessary option.
Criticism of limited body-camera video released this week
Phoenix police said officers were responding to a call about someone threatening a man with a knife when they found James Garcia in his vehicle and began questioning him. Police say he eventually pulled out a gun and lifted it toward officers.
Members of Black Lives Matter and Poder in Action joined state legislators, where they criticized a “Critical Incident Briefing” the department released that showed an officer retrieving a pistol from Garcia’s lap after he had already been shot.
“We’re here echoing the demands of the family which is for the Police Department to release every single body-camera footage from every officer that was present on July Fourth, including the 911 calls, everything from call to the dispatch to the aftermath,” said Viri Hernandez, executive director of Poder in Action.
Phoenix police cited false claims made on social media regarding the shooting as the reason for releasing the video but refused to release footage of the shooting.
“The investigation into this shooting is still in the early stages,” said Sgt. Mercedes Fortune, Phoenix police spokeswoman, in a YouTube video published Monday and produced by the Police Department. “Releasing body-worn camera (BWC) footage from the officers directly involved before all witness and officer interviews are completed could compromise the investigation.”
Phoenix Councilman Carlos Garcia, who is not related to James Garcia, said police unions have too much power to protect officers involved in shootings.
State legislators decry shooting, demand transparency
Three state legislators were present at the news conference where they denounced the shooting and demanded increased transparency from the Phoenix Police Department.
State Sen. Martin Quezada described police violence as an epidemic.
“I want to be very clear today that this isn’t new,” Quezada said. “This isn’t a new problem. But the recording and widespread awareness of this problem is new. And it is at this point in history that we are seeing this awareness develop into demands for change and we are seeing very common excuses for not providing that change that we all deserve.”
Quezada thanked the department for offering to have the FBI conduct an external investigation into the shooting and promising to release the full body-cam footage within 14 days but said those actions alone weren’t enough.
“Why is it suddenly possible to release the footage within 14 days when just a week ago it was not released for 45 days?” Quezada asked. “Why should we not believe now that 14 days still isn’t unreasonable to release this footage? Why can’t it be released now?”
State Rep. Diego Rodriguez echoed Quezada’s sentiments and asked for police officials to justify their decision to withhold the body-cam video from the public.
“You know, the times where they claim that there’s a reason to delay — we all know at this point the video is what it is,” Rodriguez said. “And that poor young man is dead. And so what purpose does it serve to control access to that video?”
Rodriguez called for all unredacted body-camera video, 911 recordings and radio logs regarding the shooting be released to Garcia’s family immediately.
Rodriguez continued, asking why police officers across the country feel it’s necessary to use force — even lethal force — to compel compliance from the citizens they’re sworn to protect.
“I didn’t say in response to violence,” Rodriguez noted. “I said to compel compliance, because that is part of the issue, that these individuals are dying all over this country because they are simply not complying. We need to do some deep thinking about that. Why is that the case with American law enforcement?”
State Rep. Raquel Teran fought back tears as she demanded increased transparency from both Phoenix police Chief Jeri Williams and Mayor Kate Gallego.
“We have to continue to demand accountability,” Teran said. “We need to demand transparency and the ask is very simple: Release the video.”
Teran said she along with the Democratic caucus will continue to call for a special legislative session to address police reform.
Fourth night in a row of protests over Garcia’s death
About 15 protesters gathered near Desert West Park in Maryvale near Phoenix police’s Maryvale Estrella Mountain Precinct on Wednesday evening.
Fe’la Iniko, who said he is the organizer of the new local protest group called the New Age Liberation Movement, said he hopes the protests pressure the Police Department to release the body-camera footage and to have the officers involved arrested and convicted.
Protesters gathered for the fourth night in a row on Wednesday to protest Garcia’s death. On Tuesday, Iniko was among a few dozen people who protested outside Gov. Doug Ducey’s home in Paradise Valley.
“We are here to protest and let the precinct know what our concerns are,” Iniko said. “We are upset about the death of James Garcia.”
A protester at the demonstration, Rilee Webb, said she wants to help fight systemic oppression and racial injustice.
And Webb said she isn’t going to stop protesting.
“I’m a white woman, and I benefit from the privileges that I have based on other people’s oppression,” Webb said. “For me, it’s an obligation and a duty to be out here.”
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