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James Garcia’s family wants Phoenix police to release all video of shooting

The family of James Garcia, who was shot and killed by Phoenix police, held a press conference Tuesday, July 21, 2020, calling for the release of all police video of the July 4 incident. (KTAR News Photo/Ali Vetnar)

PHOENIX – Family members of a man killed by Phoenix police earlier this month said Tuesday they are not satisfied with video of the shooting released a day earlier.

On Monday, the Phoenix Police Department released a “critical incident briefing” video (WARNING: explicit images and language) that edited together body-camera footage from three officers, two who fired their weapons and a third who arrived on the scene just after the shooting.

Denice Garcia, James’ mother, said she still doesn’t believe the police version of events.

“I’ve looked at that video, dissected it slowly, and nowhere did I see a gun,” she said. “But what I did see my son doing was talking with his hands, holding a cigarette, and then trying to defend himself.

“But at no point did I ever see a gun, which is extremely important that we see all of the body cams.”

The footage released Monday shows officers, who were investigating a stabbing call, trying to convince Garcia, 28, to leave a parked car. Garcia eventually rolls up the window, and officers start indicating that he has a gun.

An officer yells multiple times that he’ll shoot if Garcia lifts the gun. Garcia appears to respond by yelling “shoot me” with his face close to the window, although his voice can’t be heard through the glass in that part of the video.

An officer on Garcia’s side of the car tells an officer on the other side to “take the window out.” That officer breaks the passenger-side window with two swings of a club, and the two officers on the driver’s side opened fire immediately after.

The gun police say Garcia was holding in his right hand during the standoff was not visible in any released footage leading up to the shooting.

Footage showing a gun being taken out of the car was from the body camera of an officer arriving right after the shooting and had been previously released by police.

“We know based on the original video that came out there was more than just two officers there, but yet only two video cams were released. So that in itself speaks volumes,” Denice Garcia said.

During the incident briefing video, Sgt. Mercedes Fortune says unedited clips from five officers would be released to the media. KTAR News 92.3 FM requested the additional videos but hadn’t received them as of Tuesday afternoon.

“The family wants the truth,” said Viri Hernandez, executive director of activist group Poder in Action, who spoke during the press conference.

“They want every single video, every single camera footage from every single angle. Those cameras should be able to capture what the cops were seeing, and from the footage that we saw, it does not capture a gun being pointed at the cops.”

Hernandez also criticized police for how they’ve depicted Garcia in the media.

“They made us believe that James was the person that they were looking for that had stabbed someone several times, which is not true, and they never clarified that,” she said. “They made us believe that James was just pointing guns at people, which is not true and is not depicted in that video.”

Monday’s incident report includes 911 audio from a caller who said he’d been stabbed the previous week by a man who’d returned and was threatening him again.

The caller described the suspect as a 28-year-old Hispanic man named Eric.

He then told officers who responded to the scene that the suspect was accompanied by a man with a gun.

However, police said they followed up with the caller and determined that James Garcia wasn’t involved in the incident he’d reported.

The case remains under investigation, police said. Findings will be turned over to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for review.

The police department will also make a determination after the investigation is complete about whether officers followed policy.

Chief Jeri Williams previously said she’d asked the FBI to conduct an independent civil rights review of the case.

Denice Garcia said she’s speaking out and seeking justice not just for son, but for others killed in similar tragedies.

“Justice includes transparency, it includes integrity, it includes ethics, it includes everything that the police department should stand for,” she said.

“Everything when they took their oath and they accepted their badge and went to training and said they were here to serve and protect, then that’s what they should be doing.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.

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