ST. PAUL — Body camera footage from a St. Paul police officer who fatally shot a 31-year-old man on Sunday, Sept. 15, will be released when it won’t compromise the investigation, the police department said Monday.
Mayor Melvin Carter said Monday he’s working closely with Police Chief Todd Axtell and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension “to ensure a thorough, timely and transparent investigation.”
Carter said he asked Axtell to release body camera footage “as soon as reasonably possible,” after the BCA collects preliminary witness statements and the family of the man who was killed “has first had an opportunity to view it.”
The Ramsey County medical examiner’s office identified the man as Ronald Davis, of St. Paul.
Davis rear-ended a St. Paul squad car in the Midway neighborhood about 5:50 p.m., Sunday, according to police. Police said he then initiated a physical confrontation with the officer, a fight ensued and the officer shot him at Thomas Avenue and Griggs Street.
On emergency radio traffic, the officer was heard shouting, “Drop the knife, drop the knife!”
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is conducting the investigation and information, such as whether a knife was found at the scene, will be released by that agency, said St. Paul police spokesman Sgt. Mike Ernster.
“We’re not in a position at this point to make any statements about any evidence,” BCA spokeswoman Jill Oliveira said Monday. “We’ll be able to provide more details once the initial interviews have been completed.”
The officer’s name will be released after the initial interviews are finished, Oliveira said.
Police have not given a timeline about when the video could be made public.
“Investigations take time,” Ernster said. “It’s better to get it right than to move quickly and release information that could impact the BCA investigation. Chief Axtell will release the video, in consultation with the BCA, when he knows the investigation won’t be compromised.”
The Ramsey County attorney’s office will review the case to determine whether the shooting was justified.
“In order to expedite our decision-making timeline, we will be working with the BCA to receive evidence as they collect it and conduct a simultaneous review,” said Dennis Gerhardstein, a spokesman for the county attorney’s office.
Witness: Man attacked officer
A woman who lives down the block from the shooting was sitting on her front steps with her mom and 3-year-old grandson when she said she saw a squad car drive by slowly on Thomas Avenue.
The squad car stopped at the stop sign at Griggs Street. Then, a white car “came flying down the street,” said Connie Ho. She said she shouted to the driver to slow down.
Then, they heard a “boom!” as the car hit the squad from behind, Ho said.
The driver of the white car immediately got out and charged at the officer who was exiting his squad; the man struggled and fought with the officer, Ho said. She said she dialed 911 and provided information about what she was seeing.
It all happened “very quickly,” Ho said, and the officer wound up on the ground. She said she saw the driver throw him down.
The officer rolled a couple of times, got up and went behind his squad car. Ho heard a “pop” and thought, “Oh my God, he shot the officer,” she said.
When she looked over again, she saw it was the driver who was down on the ground. Ho said she couldn’t see whether the driver had a weapon.
Another neighbor, Miigwan Rhodes, heard a crash. Rhodes, 17, was heading outside to see what happened, but then three gunshots rang out.
“It’s a little weird to think it just happened right there,” Rhodes said Monday morning. “The street’s open again and it’s all gone, but it’s a little disheartening.”
At another home on the block, a woman said she heard yelling, gunshots and a man shouting about shots being fired and someone being hit. She called 911, not realizing it was an officer who fired his gun.
Questions from community members
George Xenos, who lives in the area, brought a bouquet of white flowers from his garden on Monday morning. He set them on the grass, near a spot where blood appeared to stain the street.
“Mental health is my big concern,” Xenos said, adding that he wondered if the man who was shot was having an episode.
He also said he wants to know, if the driver had a knife, whether he showed the weapon or attacked the officer with it.
Xenos said he brought the flowers as a memorial “for everyone, the whole community.”
“The death of any human being is tragic and … for any good police officer, it would be a terrible thing to do,” Xenos said.
Council member Mitra Jalali Nelson, who represents the area, said Monday there’s an urgent need for the body camera footage to be released.
“A huge part of community anxiety is not having independent verification of what happened,” she said. “I hope we get clear answers, but we don’t know what the body camera actually shows or what it captured.”