Benton Harbor chief 'almost in tears' watching body cam video of shooting

Benton Harbor police did not release video from two other body cameras, including the officer who fired the shots.

BENTON HARBOR, MICH. - Officer body camera footage of the fatal Tuesday morning shooting in Benton Harbor shows police leaving the home they reported to before the situation turned frantic.

It does not, however, show which of the four officers who responded to the scene shot and killed 28-year-old Darius Wimberly.

The video, released Wednesday, Oct. 19, by the Benton Harbor Police Department, comes a day after family and people in the community wanted clarity on what exactly happened -- the goal of the released footage is to show the "whole picture," director Daniel McGinnis said earlier.

Much of the video is very dark, with light only coming from porch lights and officers' flashlights. The neighborhood of Pavone Street and Empire Avenue has very few, if any, street lighting, police said. 

The cameras are placed on the officers, and the footage comes from their perspective.

A 911 call prompted officers to respond to a home on a report of a man being held at gunpoint. Police then made contact with the residents, who were cooperative and let police inside to look around. They also told them no one inside contacted police.

The video shows an exchange between the officers and a resident prior to them leaving after finding no sign of trouble.

Moments later, police were walking outside when a man on the street opened fire. Officers are seen running for cover and jumping a fence amid rapid gunshots.

"Their first thought was that they were being chased," McGinnis said Wednesday. "When we watched the video I was almost in tears."

One officer turns his gun in the direction of the shots, but this officer is not the person who shoots and kills the suspect.

The video ends shortly thereafter.

Police confirmed Tuesday the officer who fired at the suspect was armed with a high-powered rifle and fired around 15 shots.

McGinnis says he did not release the other videos because some of it was either uneventful or graphic. The family has seen all of the footage, however.

"From the perspective of the mother of Mr. Wimberly, I have a child his age, so just out of respect for her, I wouldn't want to have that out there if that was my child and I'm giving her the same respect," McGinnis said.

Some residents have been skeptical about the body camera video.

"Whatever is on that body cam, either they tampered with it, or it's not going to show the statement they put out," says one resident.

However, Benton Harbor mayor Marcus Muhammad says the body cameras offer a higher level of transparency.

"We can capture what happened and people don't have to carry the mindset of what did you know and when did you know it?," Muhammad said.

The question now is over where to draw the line between privacy and transparency.

"We thought it would be a mistake to not say anything one, delay in saying anything two," McGinnis said.

Police say the officers found two handguns on Wimberly. They performed life-saving efforts on him before he was taken by ambulance.

The officer involved in the shooting is on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure. His name is not being released. 

(© 2016 WZZM)


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