Police Chief Zimmerman defends officers in deadly OIS - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Police Chief Zimmerman defends officers in deadly OIS

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SAN DIEGO (CBS8/CNS) - Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman came to the defense Wednesday of two motorcycle officers who did not activate their uniform-worn cameras during an attempted enforcement stop that ended in the fatal shooting of a fugitive from the East Coast.

"I want everybody to understand -- this was a rapidly evolving and dynamic situation," Zimmerman said about the events that led to the death of Lamontez Jones, 39, at a Gaslamp District intersection on Tuesday afternoon.

It was the second fatal SDPD shooting in six months that was not recorded by department-issued video/audio equipment adopted last year in an effort to improve the agency's accountability while also protecting officers from meritless accusations of misconduct. The lapses have drawn criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as the public.

The fast-moving events that led to the shooting of Jones began about 2 p.m., when one of the two patrolmen tried to contact him about making a disturbance and interfering with traffic near Horton Plaza, according to police.

Jones, the subject of an outstanding armed-robbery arrest warrant out of Virginia, ran off, fleeing to the south and east for several blocks and ignoring repeated orders to halt, Capt. David Nisleit said.

At Sixth Avenue and F Street, the suspect allegedly turned toward his pursuers and pulled a realistic-looking replica pistol out of a backpack he was carrying.

Fearing for their lives, the officers opened fire on Jones, who fell onto the roadway, Nisleit said. The suspect then began to sit up and raised the fake weapon once more, prompting them to shoot him again, Nisleit said.

Jones -- who, according to police, had arrived in San Diego on the lam only two days ago -- was pronounced dead at UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest.

The San Diego Police Officers involved in this shooting were Officer Scott Thompson, a 30 year veteran, and Officer Gregory Lindstrom, a 25 year veteran. They told investigators they had not turned on their body cameras because they simply did not have time, Nisleit said.

Department guidelines call on patrol personnel to activate the devices for recording prior to most contacts with the public.

During a briefing this afternoon, Zimmerman said the motorcycle officers did not violate the camera policy during the violent encounter, since the rule explicitly states that safety concerns trump use of the devices.

Officers in the field inevitably will find themselves unable to turn on the cameras in some volatile situations, such as suddenly "facing the barrel of a gun," the chief told news crews at downtown SDPD headquarters.

Nonetheless, department officials will review the policy with a mind toward possible improvements, according to Zimmerman. One such change possibly could involve a design change allowing for automatic activation of the cameras under certain circumstances, such as removal of an officer's gun from its holster, she said.

Last spring, Zimmerman announced an alteration to the body-camera rules in the wake of another officer-involved shooting that went unrecorded by the equipment.

Shortly after midnight on April 30, Officer Neal Browder fatally shot 42- year-old Fridoon Rawshannehad, a mentally ill Afghanistan native, in a dark alley behind a Midway-area sex shop. Rawshannehad reportedly had been threatening people with a knife in the area and allegedly advanced on Browder in a menacing manner.

In response to public concern over Browder's failure to document the deadly encounter with his uniform-mounted camera, SDPD officials changed their policy regarding the devices. From that point on, officers were directed to turn on the recorders "prior to their arrival on radio calls that are likely to result in an enforcement contact," as opposed to immediately before making contact with citizens.

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