Lying on the ground beside his pickup, 19-year-old Dylan Noble has already been shot twice, but is still alive when a Fresno police officer fires a shot toward him. Fourteen seconds later, another shot rings out, according to a video of the fatal incident obtained Wednesday by The Bee.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Wednesday that officers believed Noble was about to shoot them during the deadly encounter June 25. But officers later learned that Noble was unarmed.
The video, shot by a witness and showing only the last two of four shots fired by officers, surfaced on the day Noble’s family and friends held a private funeral for him in Clovis and the family’s lawyers released a letter asking for an outside law enforcement agency such as the FBI or the state Attorney General’s Office to investigate the shooting.
Dyer said the FBI has already agreed to investigate the shooting. He also said the video given to The Bee does not give a full account of why the officers felt threatened and were forced to shoot Noble.
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The witness’s video is only 26 seconds long. It shows two officers barking commands at Noble, such as “Show us your hands” and “Get your hands up.”
An officer then fires toward Noble as he lies face up, his head closest to the officers.
The officers continue to yell at Dylan, who appears to be moving his hands.
Noble tells the officers: “I’ve been shot.”
After a long pause, an officer shoots again. The video then shows Noble moving his hands upward.
Dyer said the two officers shot Noble four times. The video shows the final two shots, he said.
Dyer: Noble ignored officers’ commands
The two officers who shot Noble are veterans, one with 20 years on the police force and the other with 17 years. In defending his officers, Dyer said police gave Noble ample time to surrender, but he ignored officers’ commands in the moments before the witness began recording. What’s not visible in the witness video, Dyer said, is that Noble, while lying on the ground, uses his left hand to lift up his shirt. He then puts his right hand into his waistband. When he suddenly pulls out his right hand, the officer believed he was pulling out a gun, Dyer said. The officer feared for his life and shot Noble, Dyer said.
Noble was shot again 14 seconds later after he put his right hand into his waistband again and pulled it out, Dyer said.
Dyer said his officers were wearing body cameras that give a full account of what happened. He said the entire shooting sequence took about 2 minutes and 20 seconds. And unlike the witness video, which was shot from more than 100 feet away, the officers’ video of the shooting is from about 12 feet away, the chief said.
Dyer said he plans to release the body camera video to the public once the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office completes its investigation.
“I anticipate the criminal investigation will be completed by the end of August as there is a need to wait for all of the physical evidence to be analyzed either by the Department of Justice and/or the Coroner’s Office,” Dyer said.
Reached by phone Wednesday evening, Mayor Ashley Swearengin declined to answer The Bee’s questions on whether she had any concerns about the shooting given the community backlash and the information that’s surfaced so far. She deferred to Dyer and city spokesman Mark Standriff, who is currently on vacation.
About an hour later, Standriff emailed a statement from the mayor, saying the shooting was “an extremely tragic situation. The City is focused on full and complete cooperation with the investigations that are under way by the District Attorney, FBI, Internal Affairs, and the Office of Independent Review, as well as reaching out to the family to offer them the opportunity to view the full video before it is released to the public.”
Call for outside investigation
In a letter to Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, Fresno attorneys Warren Paboojian and Stuart Chandler, who represent Noble’s parents, note the “close working relationship” between the Fresno Police Department and the Fresno County DA’s Office.
“Even though we have the utmost confidence in the District Attorney’s Office in regard to this investigation, we are asking for an outside, independent investigation,” the letter says.
The lawyers also say in the letter, dated July 1, that they have a video “regarding this tragedy.” But “the video shows half of the story. On behalf of the families, we would like to review the entire video in this matter,” the letter says.
The witness video has been given to Smittcamp’s office, the letter says.
Dyer said he is open to an outside agency looking into the matter. He said he also has asked the City Attorney’s Office to reach out to the family’s attorneys at the end of this week to see if the family would like to meet with him, review the police video of the shooting with him and ask him questions.
“The District Attorney’s office is currently directing this investigation and is the deciding body as to whether the shooting is within the law,” Dyer said.
Dyer said he contacted the FBI last week “to actively monitor and review this investigation.” The chief said the FBI has agreed to do it.
The FBI “will have complete access to any and all reports, recordings, interviews, and physical evidence that will allow them to come up with an independent finding,” Dyer said. “The United States Attorney General’s Office will also be reviewing the FBI’s independent investigation.”
In addition, Dyer said the Police Department’s Internal Affairs investigation will be monitored and reviewed by the independent police auditor, who has already viewed the officers’ body camera video.
Officers receiving threats
Dyer declined to name the officers, saying they have received threats and citing advice from Police Department attorneys. “The officers have not returned to work at this time and are either on administrative leave or personal leave time,” the chief said. “I anticipate the officers will be placed in an administrative assignment until such time as we determine it is safe for them to return to work.”
Dyer also said the officers involved in the shooting have viewed their body camera videos with their attorneys, which he said is standard protocol in officer-involved shooting investigations.
The shooting took place in the parking lot of a Chevron station at Shields and Armstrong avenues in southeast Fresno. The witness video shows up to four officers, three of them with their guns drawn, confronting Noble as he is prone on the ground.
According to Dyer, the events leading to the shooting unfolded rapidly:
Police received a call at 3:40 p.m. from a woman who told dispatchers that a man dressed in camouflage with a rifle was at Clinton and Clovis avenues. Officers were in the area searching for the man when a pickup squealed its tires and sped from Sunnyside Avenue onto Shields Avenue.
Officers caught up with the pickup at Fowler Avenue and Shields and activated emergency lights. The pickup stopped in the Chevron lot.
Dyer said Noble, who was driving the truck, refused to comply with repeated commands to show both his hands, leading the officers to believe that he was armed.
Noble then placed his right hand behind his back as he “walked toward officers very rapidly.”
Dyer said Noble made the comment “I hate my (expletive) life” as he approached police and pulled his hand out “very quickly.”
The shooting followed. One of the officers fired three rounds from his service handgun and the second officer fired one round from a shotgun. It appears that the final shot is from the shotgun, and the first two shots (not seen on the video) dropped Noble at the foot of his pickup door.
“There was no firearm on this individual,” Dyer said. “There was no firearm found in the pickup.”
Even though we have the utmost confidence in the District Attorney’s Office in regard to this investigation, we are asking for an outside, independent investigation.
Attorneys for family of Dylan Noble
Dyer also said Noble did not have a criminal history.
Another unanswered question is what became of the suspect, reportedly armed with a rifle, who was the subject of the police search that led to Noble’s death.
Dyer has said police body cameras also contain footage of the officers’ encounter with the woman who reported seeing the suspect.
DA’s Office gets friend’s statement
Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright gave details Wednesday about his office’s investigation:
“A team which included a senior deputy district attorney and a supervising district attorney investigator responded to the OIS scene” shortly after the shooting happened, Wright said.
In addition to inspecting the scene, “the DA team has watched video recordings of the incident and took part in the interview process with both civilian witnesses and officers,” Wright said. The team also attended the autopsy that was conducted on Noble.
Wright said the DA team also interviewed a friend of Noble. Wright said Noble’s friend initially refused to cooperate and provide a statement to Fresno police. The friend, however, was finally interviewed on July 5. “The information obtained from that interview is being shared with the investigators from the FPD,” Wright said.
The DA’s Office is awaiting the final reports that are being prepared by Fresno police and the autopsy report that will be completed by the Sheriff-Coroner’s Office, Wright said. In addition, the DA’s Office is waiting for the results of toxicological testing on Noble’s blood that is being completed by Mineral King Laboratory. “It is anticipated that the toxicological testing alone will take approximately six weeks to complete,” Wright said.
Wright said the DA’s Office will review all of the evidence to determine whether either of the officers involved committed a crime, or whether they were justified in using deadly force.
“The DA’s Office is confident that it can conduct an impartial and independent investigation and review of the actions of the officers involved in this OIS,” Wright said. “However, we would never hesitate to cooperate with any other law enforcement agency, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the State Attorney General’s Office, conducting their own review should they feel that it is warranted.”
Hoping to relieve public fears, Dyer said his department will be transparent in its investigation. “I fully intend on making the video available to the public once the criminal investigation is complete, or we reach a point in the investigation when the release of the video does not hinder the progress of the investigation or taint witness statements.”