After a dramatic video that one lawyer said “speaks for itself,” supporters of a Charlotte man fatally shot by police last month called on Monday for accountability and even criminal charges against the officers involved.
More than 70 supporters of Ruben Galindo sat in silent protest at Monday night’s Charlotte City Council meeting. Galindo, 29, was shot on Sept. 6 after police responded to a 911 call he had made himself.
A video released last week shows Galindo exiting his northeast Charlotte apartment with his hands raised above his head, three to four seconds before officers fatally shot him.
The video, obtained by the Observer through a court order, shows that after Galindo appears at his doorway, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers began to shout orders to drop his weapon, and a series of gunshots rang out. Galindo then slumped to the ground.
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“The video speaks for itself,” Brian Hochman, an attorney for Galindo’s famuly, told reporters at a news conference. “This is horrific.”
It was the city’s latest controversial police shooting and came nearly a year after the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, which prompted days of unrest that put Charlotte in the national spotlight.
Responding to the video last week, police Chief Kerr Putney told the Observer that videos never tell the whole story of what officers perceive at the time. Officers have limited options when facing a lethal threat, he said, and have to think about saving their own lives and the lives of others.
“I’m not going to second-guess how (officers) perceive a lethal threat,” he added.
But critics were less reluctant.
“If it’s not a police chief’s job to second-guess his officers, what is his job?” said Mel Tucker, a former FBI agent, police chief and retired training expert who has testified as an expert witness in almost 100 court cases. “It’s a police job to make an evaluation … that the use of deadly force was justified. Otherwise he’s going to accept what the officer says.”
Corine Mack, president of the local NAACP branch, called the chief’s comment “asinine.” She sat at the council meeting with other Galindo supporters who carried yellow signs with slogans such as “Justicia para Galindo” (“Justice for Galindo”).
City officials reacted cautiously.
Mayor Jennifer Roberts told the Observer that she’s waiting for completion of an investigation into the shooting. “I think I’ve learned that there are different perspectives on every incident – physical angles,” she said. “I’m pleased the video got released quickly.”
Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles, the Democratic nominee for mayor, also alluded to the investigation by the district attorney. “We ought to let the investigation play itself out,” she said.
And Republican council member Kenny Smith, the GOP mayoral candidate, said, “Any loss of life is … unfortunate and regrettable.” He said it would be “premature” to comment before the investigation is concluded.
Hector Vaca, Charlotte director of the nonprofit Action NC, told reporters that’s not enough.
“We need CMPD to take responsibility for the action of its officers,” he said. “We need the DA to file criminal charges against the officers.”
The two officers involved in the shooting remain on administrative leave pending an internal investigation. They’ve been identified as Courtney Suggs and David Guerra.
On the night he was killed, Galindo had called 911 to say in Spanish that he had a gun and wanted to turn himself in to police for an upcoming court date. He also said repeatedly that his gun was unloaded. “No tengo balas,” Galindo said, meaning, “I have no bullets.”
But recordings of the 911 call and other communications reveal Galindo declining several dispatcher requests to put the weapon away before police arrived.
Recordings also reveal that the dispatcher told responding officers that Galindo did not want to put the weapon down but that he maintained it was empty. Police also knew of Galindo’s arrest in April when he was accused of assault by pointing a gun.
Asked whether Galindo had a gun in his raised hands, Hochman, the lawyer, said, “We’re going to choose at this point to let the investigation take its course.”