Did San Diego police point a gun at a young boy during a Tuesday traffic stop in Hillcrest?
As social media posts assailed the officer, the San Diego Police Department released uniform-worn-camera footage of the episode in a bid to refute “misinformation.”
Cellphone video shot by a witness to the enforcement action on Park Boulevard near Upas Street early Tuesday afternoon appeared to show the lawman aiming his gun at the suspect’s car after the man — who initially had failed to yield for a speeding violation and led officers on a brief pursuit — was in custody.
Once posted online, the images prompted expressions of disbelief and outrage from public commentators.
Police officials, for their part, countered that those protests were unfounded, as evidenced by the images shot by the camera on the uniform of the officer in question.
“The body-worn camera footage is being released due to misinformation which is circulating on social media regarding this incident,” said SDPD public- affairs Lt. Shawn Takeuchi Wednesday afternoon. “We hope the release of this video will provide clarity as to what occurred.”
The patrolman’s video shows his gun extended toward the driver as he follows orders to exit his car with his hands up and to back slowly toward other officers, who take him into custody.
Police then call out the driver’s son. At that point, the officer’s camera captured images of his gun extended in the general direction of the car, but seemingly aimed somewhat downward toward the back of the car or the street.
As soon as the child gets out of the vehicle, the officer’s gun can be seen moving to the side and more sharply toward the asphalt, until it is aimed 15 feet or more to the side of youngster as he walks over to a motorcycle officer on the roadside.
While the boy is being detained, the officer with the gun can be heard directing him in a calm voice to put his hands over his head and saying, “Just come over to us, all right? You’re good, bud.”
During the process, the father can be heard asking if the officer was going to “take that gun off” the child. “He’s 8 years old, bro!
(CBS8 later reported that the father told the station his son had recently turned 9.)
An officer is heard trying to calm the boy, whose face was obscured. “You know your dad was driving really really fast,” he said. “Did it feel like that you? … You, you’re not in trouble, OK?”
In a statement that precedes the uniform-camera footage in the Police Department’s online posting, the agency asserts that “at no time” was the officer’s gun trained on the boy.
“We hope the release of this video will provide clarity as to what occurred,” the SDPD spokesman said.
Police said the driver was issued a misdemeanor citation for reckless driving and his vehicle was impounded.
“The father and son left together after the citation was issued,” a video slide said.
Police critic Tasha Williamson, the former candidate for San Diego mayor, tweeted: “All within policy and procedure! Who is the chair of the police board changing this? Here is another one with the children pat down on a swatting call. The caller never tracked down and cited but kids traumatized. Complaints will have no consequences.”
Local Democratic political consultant Eva Posner answered police accounts by saying: “The gun is pointed at a child. Why is the gun even up? Why did it need to be raised anywhere in the direction of a child? The person who was considered a threat was in custody before the child got out of the car. This is stupid. You are lying.”
Video posted by SanDiegoVille showed a view from a passers-by camera.
“I witnessed the police officer on the motorcycle with his siren and lights on but the vehicle was already pulled over,” the witness who captured the videos told the website. “Both the driver’s side window and passenger side window were rolled down and the man and boy had their hands outside the window.
The witness, who wished to remain anonymous, added: “As I walked by the vehicle, I noticed the little boy in the passenger side with his hands outside the window. I turned around and started recording. The officer was pointing the gun at the car [and] used his other hand to direct me to keep walking. I stopped recording and called my lawyer friend who confirmed I had every right to keep recording. So I started recording again.”
— City News Service contributed to this report