A dash cam video showing a sobbing Montana police officer minutes after he shot an unarmed man during a traffic stop has circulated on the Internet, marking the latest officer-involved shooting -- only this time it was the aftermath that was caught by a police camera and made public.
The video was shown last week to a jury at a coroner's inquest that was looking into the April 14 shooting by Billings Police Officer Grant Morrison that left Richard Ramirez dead. Ramirez, 38, who was a Billings resident, was high on methamphetamine, according to court testimony.
The jury last Wednesday ruled the shooting a noncriminal, justified homicide.
The incident began when Morrison noticed a car making a turn, seemingly to avoid him, according to court testimony. He followed the car and noticed that the rear license plate light was out, a violation of Montana law.
He approached the passenger side, opened the door and told the passengers to put their hands up, or he would shoot, said Lt. Kevin Iffland of the Billings Police Department.
At the inquest, Morrison testified that he had recognized Ramirez as a suspect in an earlier robbery. The officer also said he believed Ramirez was reaching for a gun in his waistband because Ramirez kept putting his left hand down.
Morrison fired into the car three times, killing Ramirez, according to Ed Zink, senior deputy Yellowstone County attorney.
The Yellowstone County attorney's office is unlikely to pursue charges in the case, Zink said.
In one part of the video, Morrison, a five-year police veteran, cries loudly with his head on the hood of a police car, as two officers huddle near him, one with his arm around Morrison's shoulder.
"I thought he was going to pull a gun on me," Morrison says to the officers in the video.
Dennis Kenney, professor of criminal justice at John Jay College and a former Florida police officer, said powerful evidence could come from police cameras.
"Given [Ramirez's] history, the cop's remorse and his declaration during his reaction that he thought the guy had a gun, I imagine the video was pretty compelling to the inquest," he said in an email.
Iffland said Morrison is trying to deal with the incident.
"Obviously, he's going through his own personal emotions," Iffland said. "The best thing is just trying to move on from this, healing."
Most recently, helmet-cam footage of the shooting of a homeless man by two Albuquerque police officers led a district attorney to pursue murder charges.
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