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‘We will get justice’: Family pleads for investigation into fatal police shooting of unarmed teen

The family of an unarmed 19-year-old Fresno man refuted claims by police that he told them he hated his life before he was fatally shot four times by two officers.

Darren Noble and Veronica Nelson said their son, Dylan Noble, didn’t have emotional or mental problems and wouldn’t have wanted to die. The Fresno Police Department has said Dylan told them “he hated his life,” as he made gestures suggesting he was armed with a weapon.

“I am outraged that the police would shoot my son and say it is his fault. To say that he was suicidal. To say that he was unhappy,” his mother said at a news conference Thursday. “If you knew my son, you would know that it’s lies.”

The family’s statement comes a day after cellphone video surfaced showing Fresno police officers shooting Dylan Noble as he was lying on the ground at a Chevron gas station. The shooting is the latest in a series of police use-of-force incidents caught on tape.

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His mother called for a wider police investigation, and demanded justice.

“We will get justice,” she said.

Dylan Noble
Dylan Noble
(Warren Paboojian )

Darren Noble’s attorney, Warren Paboojian, said the FBI and the Attorney General’s Office must investigate the shooting.

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“Release the information and explain to us how a 19-year-old boy on a traffic stop that is unarmed is shot four times,” he said. “I mean that’s all we know.”

The shooting has spurred an online petition demanding that the police department release body camera footage of the incident. The shooting comes amid national outrage over the number of shootings by police involving black men. In this case, Noble was white.

Police Chief Jerry Dyer told The Times the FBI has agreed to investigate the shooting.

“Any time an unarmed individual is shot, especially when their life is taken, there is a tendency for the public to rush to judgment and come up with their own conclusions,” Dyer said.

The video does not show the moments just before the fatal shooting. Two shots already had been fired at Noble before the recording began.

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But the witness video, originally obtained by the Fresno Bee, shows Dylan Noble lying on the ground on June 25 as two officers with their guns drawn stand feet away from him. As officers yell, “Keep your hands up” and other commands, one shot is fired. Seconds later, a third officer approaches the pair, and another shot rings out. At one point during the video, Noble can be seen raising his arm and saying, “I’ve been shot.”

According to the police department, officers responded to a report of a man walking with a rifle about 3:20 p.m. and observed a black pickup speeding as they searched the area. They tried to stop the truck, but it continued traveling for half a mile. The truck eventually pulled into a Chevron gas station, police said.

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Lt. Burke Farrah said Noble refused to show his hands and tried to conceal one hand behind his back, then in his waistband. Noble, he said, got out of his truck and advanced toward officers after telling them he hated his life.

Dyer said Noble twice raised his shirt with his left hand and used his right hand to reach under his shirt into his waistband. The officers, he said, feared for their lives.

Officers warned Noble not to reach into his waistband because they believed he was trying to retrieve a firearm, Dyer said.

That’s when an officer fired two shots with his handgun. Those shots, he said, are not depicted in the witness video. The officer then fired another shot. A second officer delivered the fourth and final shot, one round from a shotgun.

Noble was taken to an area hospital and died during surgery.

Police received information about the identity of the man holding the rifle, but it was not enough to arrest him.

A witness’ cellphone video shows the moments when Fresno police officers fired the final two shots at Dylan Noble on June 25, 2016. WARNING: This video contains graphic content. 

Dyer said the video shows only a portion of the incident. The officers’ body cameras, he said, will show exactly what happened, since they were standing 12 to 15 feet away, he said. The department will review the officers’ actions to determine why they fired at Noble while he was on the ground and if there were other options, he said.

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The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave. Dyer declined to release the officers’ names because he said they have been receiving threats on social media. One officer has 20 years’ experience with the department, and the other officer has worked in law enforcement for 17 years, Dyer said.

Use-of-force experts said the video raises questions about the officers’ perceived threat.

“Why didn’t officers move in after the third shot and restrain him? Fourteen seconds is a long time to wait,” said Charles “Sid” Heal, a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s commander. “Sometimes we get criticized for handcuffing dead people. But this is why we move in and restrain people.”

Dylan Noble’s father, Darren Noble, said the officer’s body cameras will prove that his son didn’t want to die.

“Dylan was a fun-loving kid. He loved life. Everybody around him loved him and for anybody to say any differently is saying so that didn’t know him and is doing it with an ulterior motive,” he said.

For breaking news in California, follow VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.

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