Bryan police released body camera footage Wednesday of a February officer-involved shooting that left one man injured.
The video release comes after a Brazos County grand jury reviewed evidence from the incident and declined to take action against Steven Laughlin, a 27-year-old Bryan police officer who shot the man.
Bryan officials released two videos; one from Laughlin’s body camera and one from another officer at the scene. Between the two vantage points, the footage depicts the man’s behavior before the shooting and ends with ambulance and other law enforcement personnel arriving and tending to the man.
Bryan Police Department Chief Eric Buske had a press conference Wednesday morning to discuss the videos and analyze footage point-by-point. Laughlin returned to work six days after the Feb. 12 incident, which is also when the man who was shot was released from the hospital.
“It’s a sad situation all around, but the officer acted in the way he was trained and exhibited a lot of professionalism,” Buske said at the press conference. “I can’t pretend to know [the man’s] mental state, but it is a tragic event all around.”
In the first video, taken from Laughlin’s body camera, the officer can be seen approaching a woman in the front yard of a home in the 5300 block of Mallard Drive. The woman tells police a man she knows has been showing up to her home against her wishes and points out he is still walking in the yard adjacent to her home.
“This is a very typical police call,” Buske explained as he watched the footage with reporters. “It’s a very common type of disturbance. He’s going into it very calmly, trying to get more information from the people involved.”
Laughlin addresses the man, who can be seen in the video pacing back and forth yards away from Laughlin and the woman. The officer asks the man to speak with him and remove his hands from his pockets, but the individual refuses to take his right hand out of his pocket, the video shows.
For several minutes the man paces the street. Laughlin, gun drawn, shouts the man’s name repeatedly, demanding he remove his hand from his pocket. The woman can be heard pleading with the man to cooperate. He continually shouts at Laughlin that he isn’t going to take his hand out of his pocket, and asks several times “Are you ready?” At this point, Laughlin, who is working with one partnering officer, calls for additional backup as the man continues to pace back and forth with his hand in his pocket.
The woman begs the man to think of his family and stop “acting stupid.”
Buske pointed out to the media that Laughlin positioned himself behind his patrol vehicle, using it as a kind of shield.
“[The man] moves to the driver’s side of the patrol vehicle, where he cam be seen mimicking a shooting stance,” Buske said. “You’ll see his shoulders from and his arms raise …”
The man begins to walk in the general direction of the reporting woman’s home.
“You can tell Laughlin feared for his life,” Buske said. “If you listen to the pitch of his next verbal commands … [the man] will bring his right hand from behind his back toward Officer Laughlin, displaying a black object Officer Laughlin perceived to be a firearm.”
At about three minutes and 30 seconds into the first body camera video, Laughlin says “Don’t make me do this,” and the man responds “Do it. Come on!” Laughlin then fires five shots with his handgun, striking the man, who drops to the grass of the yard adjacent to the woman’s home. Laughlin calls over his radio, “Shots fired! Shots fired! He’s got a gun.”
Laughlin screams at the woman to run into her house for safety, shouting that he can see a gun the wounded man is pulling from his position in the grass. The officer calls for a medic to respond. The woman weeps and shouts that the man is dead, although he can be seen moving his limbs slowly as he lies on the ground.
Laughlin whispers a curse word under his breath as he waits for medics to arrive, his gun still pointed at the injured person lying just a few yards away.
The sound of sirens wailing can be heard as Laughlin continues to ask the wounded man to show him his hands. Buske pointed out that Laughlin tells medics they can not approach because the suspected gun is still close, and Laughlin’s partnering officer is working to keep the woman away from the scene. Laughlin tries to activate his patrol car’s camera, as he didn’t realize he doesn’t have it on.
Buske explained at this point in the video, Laughlin realizes the object is not a firearm. A follow-up investigation proved that the item the man had in his pocket was a cellphone.
“However, [Laughlin] continues to treat the individual as a threat because he doesn’t know what’s underneath him and tries to communicate with him under a position of cover,” Buske said.
The video shows the wounded man remaining on the ground, his legs slowly moving back and forth. The video ends when the man cooperates with police and shows both of his hands. The rest of video not shown due to privacy concerns, Buske said, though he described what happens after the video ends.
“The officers start advance medical treatment on [the man],” Buske told media. “They apply appropriate bandages and get him ready for the rescue squad to take him to the hospital.”
A second video shows footage from the partnering officer’s body camera. The second officer’s camera is blocked from view of the actual shooting, as the officer positioned behind a vehicle to protect herself. The officer interacts directly with the woman who reported the incident, forcing her into the home for her safety. “Please get in the house and lock the door!” the officer shouts at the woman, who is distraught after the shooting.
The officer has her weapon drawn as well, pointed at the man after he has been shot. She confirms to Laughlin that she cannot see the man’s hands as he lies on the ground. She continually reminds the reporting party to stay inside the house.
The man was not charged with any crime. Laughlin’s actions were reviewed both by fellow Bryan officers and by outside agencies, including the Department of Public Safety Texas Ranger division. Laughlin was put on six days of administrative leave as his case was reviewed, and on Tuesday a grand jury determined that no criminal action was to be taken. Buske said Laughlin’s situation was a hard one, and he is proud of the professionalism Laughlin exhibited and believes he acted in the manner in which he was trained.
“Nobody joins a police department to have to shoot somebody, and no police officer wants to do that,” Buske said. “Nobody wanted to have happen what happened there. That night, as I said before, was one of the most common calls we make. You never expect it to turn into something like it did turn into, but that’s kind of the nature of our job; sometimes things turn on a dime.”
The two videos from Laughlin and his partner’s body cameras can be seen at theeagle.com.
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