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Officer who fatally shot Richmond suspect was not wearing body cam

Posted at 3:20 PM, May 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-18 18:28:41-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Richmond Police officer who shot and killed a man wanted for attempted murder was not wearing a body camera the day of the shooting.

Richmond Police Officer Cleophas Williams, who has been on the force for two years, remains on administrative leave pending an investigation into the shooting.

"It has been my policy to release the names of officers involved in fatal shootings. I have done it in the past," Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham said. "But, we must first assess the situation and determine the possibility of retaliation. We have completed that portion of the investigation which is why I am releasing Officer Williams’ name at this time."

Richmond Police have rolled out more than 250 body cameras to officers around the city. They expected to have an additional 200 body camera on the street by the end of the year.

Officer Williams shot and killed 29-year-old Jaison Fitzgerald during a Monday night traffic stop.

Fitzgerald was wanted for a weekend incident where he was accused of firing two gunshot at his wife's father during an argument on Armfield Way in Richmond.

"I tried to get him to leave and calm down because I know his mindset," Fitzgerald's wife De'Maurice told Jon Burkett after the shooting.

De'Maurice Fitzgerald

A "be-on-the-look-out" for Fitzgerald was broadcast to police and Crime Insider sources said officers spotted him driving in South Richmond on Monday.

Police pulled him over on Lynhaven Avenue where witnesses said they heard police give him a command to drop his weapon.

"I heard a very commanding voice say, 'Stop… drop the weapon!'" a neighbor, who did not want to be identified, said.

Fitzgerald was shot in the chest. He was transported to VCU Medical Center, where he died.

De'Maurice Fitzgerald said she was not mad at the police officer because she said Jaison frequently mentioned he was not going back to jail, hinting police would have to kill him.

"He always said ‘til death do us part,’" she said.

She said regardless of his prior charges, Jaison Fitzgerald was good to his kids.

"Very good father, he loved his kids, he loved to go fishing and do his own thing," De'Maurice said.

Jaison Fitzgerald

Bill Farrar with the ACLU said the agency is calling for an independent investigation.

"What we know is that a person is dead as a result of an interaction with the police and that needs to have a full an thorough investigation by someone who does not have a dog in the fight,” Farrar said. "We urge Use of Force policies that start with placing the highest value on the sanctity of human life and moving from there. And if this is indeed a situation where the officers had reason to believe that person was dangerous, we think that's all the more reason to proceed with caution."

Dana Schrad with the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police pointed out that no officer wants to use lethal force.

In addition, Schrad said law enforcement agencies are extremely careful about releasing video to the public. One reason is so a criminal investigation is not potentially compromised.

"Secondly, there are times when they are third parties who may be in that video," Schrad said. "Sometimes there are children in the video. Sometimes there are victims in the video that you are trying to protect them from further harm.”

Schrad also said an independent investigation may not be needed in this case.

"It depends on the resources of the agencies. Sometimes it depends on the complexity of the case. Sometimes it depends on if there are multiple agencies involved in the response,” Schrad said.

Richmond Police expressed their condolences to the Fitzgerald family.

"I am saddened by the fact that the Richmond Police Department is having to investigate a case like this one," Chief Durham said. "Using lethal force is one of the most difficult decisions a police officer must make in the line of duty. My thoughts are with Officer Williams, Jaison Fitzgerald and their families."

Richmond Police have not yet located any video of the shooting, either from other officers, neighbors, or witnesses.

The Department’s Force Investigation Team continues to investigate and will present their findings to the Commonwealth’s Attorney for review.

Witnesses can send news tips and video here.

Tips to the police can be sent to Detective W. Thompson at 804-646-3925 or Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000.