The Fresno Police Department released body camera video Wednesday showing Dylan Noble repeatedly ignoring officers’ demands that he stop moving back and forth at a gas station parking lot and show his hands before officers fired their weapons.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer said the investigation into the shooting is still underway, and he has not made a decision whether it was justified. But he said he wanted to release the video so the public could see a more complete picture of what officers faced as they confronted Noble and had to make decisions in mere seconds.
In releasing the video, Dyer appealed for calm from the community, saying tensions are high in the Valley and around the nation over police shootings, and one spark could ignite a proverbial forest fire.
“I am praying this video doesn’t serve as that spark in this community,” Dyer said.
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During an afternoon news conference at police headquarters, Dyer walked reporters through videos from the body cameras of the two officers who fired their weapons. Dyer called the Wednesday conference “the most important” one in his tenure as chief.
Dyer told reporters he had originally planned to release the names of both officers, but he declined to do so Wednesday because the department’s legal counsel instructed him not to. The department has intercepted several threats made against the officers involved, although not by name. He noted that the recent shooting of 12 police officers in Dallas has caused him to fear for the safety of his own officers, especially given the controversy swirling around Noble’s death.
He said the officer driving the patrol car was a 20-year veteran at the department. In a second unit was an officer with 17 years of experience – 10 with the department. The 20-year veteran had never been a part of a police shooting, but the 17-year officer was involved in a 2009 shooting.
Dyer said the officers had interviewed a person who had called 911 about an armed man walking around the area. About 12 minutes later, they encountered Noble’s truck.
The videos pick up from there.
The cameras capture what sounds like screeching tires. One officer notes that Noble was “peeling out.” They then attempt to stop Noble, who continues to drive for some time before pulling into the gas station at Shields and Armstrong avenues.
Although some of the road had no-stopping zones to Noble’s right, Dyer said Noble had several opportunities to pull over.
The officer behind the wheel pulls out his handgun and points it at Noble’s truck as it is slowing and turning into the gas station. Dyer said this was because the officer believed Noble may have been armed, given the officers’ initial call. That officer also believed Noble was taunting him and making the officer feel as if he did have a gun, Dyer added.
Both officers exit their vehicles with guns drawn. They begin yelling for the driver to put both of his hands outside of the driver’s side window of his truck. Noble puts his left hand out of the window but not his right, despite multiple requests for him to do so.
After some time, Noble begins to exit the truck. One officer yells that he did not tell Noble to get out of the truck. Noble appears to stagger as he gets out of the lifted truck. He then walks a few steps away from the officers, who move toward him. The officers repeatedly tell Noble to put both of his hands up. He continues to walk toward and away from officers in a circular way – raising and lowering each hand at different intervals.
Dyer said that one officer believed Noble had something in his hand. This was later determined to be a 4-inch-by-4-inch piece of clear plastic with what appears to be a grayish clay inside. It is currently being analyzed by the U.S. Department of Justice.
As Noble is walking around, the officers continue to shout commands. At one point, the officer holding the shotgun tells Noble that if he moves toward officers, he will be shot.
Moments later, Noble turns toward the officers and yells “I (expletive) hate my life” as he takes two steps toward police. The officer with a handgun fires two shots into Noble, who immediately falls on his stomach.
Noble turns onto his back a few seconds later. The officers continue to tell Noble to show them his hands as he is lying on the ground. Noble’s hands appear to be moving up and down his chest and stomach.
The officer fires another shot from his handgun into Noble. Again, Noble’s hands appear to be moving up and down his body.
The officer with the shotgun tells Noble that if he doesn’t show them both of his hands, he will be shot again. Noble’s hand moves again, and the officer fires his shotgun into the fallen man. Twelve seconds pass between the third and fourth shot.
The video ends with the shotgun-wielding officer pleading with Noble to show his hands. In all, it was about three minutes from when Noble pulls over to when he was shot the final time.
Dyer said some of the video will answer many of the questions out in the community, but it may raise other questions – particularly whether the last two rounds fired by officers were necessary.
“I, too, have questions about the last two rounds fired,” Dyer said, and whether they were “absolutely necessary or were there other options.”
He said he is awaiting the conclusion of the investigation – a criminal investigation as well as an internal affairs investigation – before he can answer whether the officers followed department policy and the laws governing use of force, and whether the last two rounds fired at Noble were necessary.
“I will make the right decision for this city, and the right decision for the officers involved,” Dyer said. He said he would look at every one of the four rounds that were fired, and whether each of them was needed and within the law.
He noted that other police chiefs around the country had received votes of no confidence from their officers’ unions or been fired due to public outcry because of how they handled these situations, but he vowed a second time to “do the right thing.”
Dyer added: “I’ve had luxury of watching this video 40 times … a luxury those officers did not have.”
Dyer said his department has not yet received a coroner’s report on Noble, which will include a toxicology screening. Investigators do not know if Noble was intoxicated or otherwise impaired prior to the shooting. He added that officers had no prior contact with Noble, which he said means they had no way of knowing what his state of mind or impairment was at that time.
When asked if the officers followed department policy during what was initially classified a traffic stop, Dyer said investigators would be looking into that.
When asked if officers could have used less-than-lethal force, such as a Taser, Dyer said investigators would also look into that. He noted that department policy does allow for the use of less-than-lethal force after a suspect had been shot.
One reporter asked if Noble could have been reaching for his wounds while on the ground. Dyer again said investigators would look into that possibility. When asked if officers expect people who have just been shot to obey commands, Dyer said that people react in different ways after being shot.
Previously, Dyer has said the officers believed Noble was about to shoot them. But officers later learned Noble was unarmed. Dyer said on July 6 that the FBI has agreed to monitor the police Internal Affairs investigation.
At least three investigations are currently taking place on this shooting: The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the shooting; the Fresno Police Department’s internal affairs division, under supervision from the city’s Office of Independent Review, is looking into whether the officers broke department policy; and the FBI is checking into whether any civil rights violations took place.
The FBI will also review the district attorney’s findings.
Warren Paboojian, an attorney for the teen’s father, Darren Noble, held a news conference at his northwest Fresno office after Dyer spoke at police headquarters.
“I want to focus on one real important area,” said Paboojian. “This is a traffic stop. By no stretch of the imagination do we get (from) traffic stop to felony.”
“People are going to question Dylan’s conduct of why he did certain things,” Paboojian said. “The officers never gave Dylan an explanation or a chance to speak. The officers never, in those 30 commandments that Jerry Dyer indicated, did they ask him, ‘Do you have a gun?’ All they were doing was telling a young boy who may have been under the influence of some alcohol to do a bunch of commands for a routine traffic stop.”
Darren Noble, who had an opportunity to view the footage earlier this month, had a harsh assessment of the officers’ encounter with his son.
“He got murdered,” Noble said. “There was no reason for them to even have guns drawn down on him for a traffic stop.”
Last week, a bystander’s video of the June 25 shooting was made public. It showed Noble lying wounded on the ground next to his pickup as two officers fired two times at him – 14 seconds apart. The final shot was a shotgun blast toward his upper body.
Noble’s mother, Veronica Nelson, has filed a claim against the city, saying Fresno police made no attempt to use anything less than lethal force.
Stuart Chandler, Nelson’s attorney, filed the claim on Monday. In it, Chandler alleges Nelson has suffered loss of companionship and “significant emotional and mental distress as a result of the senseless and brutal shooting death of her son.”
After learning the body camera footage has been made public, Chandler said, “What transpired is something that shouldn’t happen in civilized society.” He also urged city leaders to ensure the police department no longer acts this aggressively and “to take full responsibility for Dylan Noble’s death.”
In a statement, the Fresno City Attorney’s Office said that “our policy is to refrain from discussing any pending claim or litigation.”
Paboojian said Wednesday that he would be filing a similar claim on behalf of Noble’s father on Thursday.