The Tucson police department has officially terminated a cop who killed a disabled man, shooting the wheel-chair bound 61-year-old nine times in the back and side.
The killing took place at the end of November in a big-box shopping complex south of downtown in the Arizona city. Officer Ryan Remington — a four-year veteran of the Tucson force was working on a “special duty” side-shift as security for a Wal-Mart store. There, a man named Richard Richards allegedly shoplifted a toolbox. As Richards rolled out of the store in his red mobility device, an employee asked to see his receipt. According to an account offered by the Tucson police, “Mr. Richards brandished a knife and said, ‘Here’s your receipt.’”
Officer Remington, having observed that encounter, pursued Richards out of the store and into the parking lot, in a slow-speed chase on foot. In a video released by the police, Remington can be heard calling for backup, alleging Richards “pulled a knife on me.”
A second officer soon arrived on the scene, wearing a body camera. As seen on video from that device, Richards was ignoring Remington’s orders and rolling toward the entrance of a Lowe’s garden center. Remington shouted: “Do not go in the store, sir!” When Richards did not obey, Remington suddenly opened fire at close range, shooting eight times in rapid succession from behind the wheelchair, before firing a ninth shot after a brief pause.
Richards can then be seen toppling head first onto the pavement, where he gets handcuffed by Remington. Richards was declared dead shortly thereafter.
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero quickly blasted the slaying as “unconscionable and indefensible.” In a press conference the day after the shooting, Tucson police chief Chris Magnus excoriated Remington. “I am deeply troubled by Officer Remington’s actions,” he said. “His use of deadly force in this incident is a clear violation of department policy and directly contradicts multiple aspects of our use of force training.” The chief announced that day that the department had already “moved… to terminate Officer Remington.”
That firing did not become official, however until Wednesday Jan. 5, following the conclusion of an extended “internal administrative investigation.” Remington now has 10 days to appeal his termination — a step Remington’s lawyer, Mike Storie, said his client will likely pursue.
Storie held a press conference on Dec. 1 claiming Remington had sought to deescalate with Richards throughout the encounter, and only decided to shoot because he feared for the safety of a Lowe’s employee at the entrance to the garden center. Storie insisted the shooting was “per policy” adding: “It may be offensive to people, but you know what? Police business is messy at times.”
The video of the slaying is graphic, and disturbing, even by the standards of police killings.
Pima County Attorney Laura Conover has opened an investigation into the killing. “The video is jarring,” Conover said of the footage of the killing, in a statement released on Dec. 10. But to date, Remington faces no criminal charges.