OGDEN — The video of the March 23 confrontation between Jamal Bell and the three officers who responded to a call at his Harrisville apartment has been released to the media.
The footage from the body camera of one of the three officers shows Bell — critically injured by police in the incident — walking toward the officers from inside his apartment after they arrive on the scene, something in each hand. Then he retreats back into his apartment, and the officers slowly follow, but remain just outside the front entrance of the unit.
“Drop the knife now,” officers repeatedly shout.
“Take another step forward, I will shoot you,” another shouts.
Bell, facing the officers from inside his apartment with his arms outstretched, doesn’t say anything in response and doesn’t appear to drop the items in his hand — knives, officials say. Then he again walks toward the officers, slowly. Amid much shouting, the officers fire repeatedly from outside the apartment through the open front door and Bell, inside the apartment about 15 feet away, falls to the ground.
The Weber County Attorney’s Office released the video Thursday after showing it to Bell’s parents earlier in the day. The three officers involved each wore body cameras during the March 23 incident and Chris Allred, the county attorney, said the video released was the most complete of the three versions. It was not edited, he said, though footage prior to the confrontation, as the officers looked for Bell’s apartment at the Harrisville complex, was not included in the video publicly released.
Lex Scott, who has pressed for release of the video and, as head of Black Lives Matter Utah, has blasted the March 23 police response as excessive, spoke to Bell’s parents after they saw the video. The man’s mother, who’s been advised by legal counsel not to publicly comment, “said it was very difficult to watch,” Scott said.
In a Facebook comment after release of the video, Scott reiterated her charge that authorities used too much force. “Those officer’s lives were not in danger. They did not try to negotiate or calm the situation,” she wrote.
Police were called to Bell’s apartment at 2510 N. Charleston Ave. on a report of a domestic disturbance and Scott says police fired on him 11 times during the subsequent confrontation, critically injuring him. After the shooting, he’s on the ground moaning as officers await the arrival of an ambulance.
“Stay with us guy. We got medical coming,” says one officer.
Bell remained hospitalized as of Thursday at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, recovering from the injuries. He sustained gunshot wounds to his pelvic area, chest and foot, Scott said. The officers and medical personnel in the video note wounds to Bell’s chest, hands, leg and femur.
Authorities say Bell had a knife in each hand when met by the officers and that he advanced on them despite repeated commands to stop and drop the knives. They unsuccessfully tried to stop him with a Taser and then fired on him after he moved forward, according to a press release from the Harrisville Police Department later in the day on March 23. The video conveys the attempted Taser use and the officers shouting commands at Bell.
Allred’s office has yet to determine whether Bell will face charges and has yet to make a determination on whether the officers were justified in their actions, Allred said. The officers, one each from the Harrisville, North Ogden and Pleasant View police departments, have been placed on administrative leave during the inquiry, per standard procedure.
In Scott’s view, though, the circumstances did not justify the police response. “They weren’t justified in shooting him 11 times. He didn’t have a gun and he didn’t hurt anyone in that apartment,” Scott said earlier Thursday.
In her Facebook post after release of the video, she elaborated, noting that Bell hadn’t touched officers. “This video should be shown in every police training class to show what police should NOT do in the line of duty. Police are there to protect and serve and preserve life. That is not what they did,” she wrote.
Authorities have said little on the matter beyond what was contained in the initial March 23 press release.
Though that initial statement said the police presence stemmed from a report of a domestic disturbance, Scott said Bell’s girlfriend reported that he didn’t touch her in any way. Bell had arrived at his apartment in the early morning hours of March 23, at around 3 a.m., and an argument ensued with his girlfriend, according to Scott. Police were called to the scene sometime after that.
According to audio on YouTube that Scott said comes from dispatchers who handled the initial call, someone from outside Bell’s apartment called authorities on the matter. In the audio, a dispatcher states that she didn’t find any “prior history” at the man’s address in the last year.
In releasing the sole video Thursday, Deputy Weber County Attorney Matt Wilson said his office had determined it wouldn’t likely interfere with the ongoing investigation. Officials didn’t release additional video or reports, he continued, because making them public could impede the probe, though they could be made public later.
The video made public is 21 minutes and 51 seconds long. It starts as police arrive at Bell’s apartment and continues through the confrontation and arrival of medical personnel. It shows medical officials tending to Bell. It ends after he’s removed on a stretcher and after the officer wearing the body camera returns to his police car.
Scott earlier Thursday had called on Black Lives Matter Utah supporters via a Facebook post to call Allred’s office and press for release of all the police body cam footage of the confrontation. She rescinded the call later in the day.