PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Evidence made public Tuesday from a fatal Philadelphia police shooting that protesters said paralleled other high-profile killings of black men appears to contradict the official narrative that the victim was reaching into his car for a loaded pistol.
A lawyer for 26-year-old Brandon Tate-Brown's family said surveillance videos and transcripts of interviews with the officers and several witnesses showed the original story of the shooting last December "was a complete and utter lie."
Police described Tate-Brown reaching for the weapon in their initial statements on the shooting. District Attorney Seth Williams repeated the claim in March when he said Officers Nicholas Carrelli and Heng Dang would not face criminal charges.
Carrelli told a different story when he talked to internal affairs investigators a few days after Williams' announcement. He said he opened fire as Tate-Brown ran toward the passenger side of the Dodge Charger, but before he reached inside.
"I wanted to discharge before I lost sight of him because I feared that he would be able to get the gun before I would be able to protect myself," Carrelli said, according to the transcripts.
Mayor Michael Nutter office cited "ongoing efforts for transparency" in making the material public Tuesday, but lawyer Brian Mildenberg said a judge had ordered the disclosure by Wednesday as part of Tate-Brown's mother's civil rights lawsuit against the city.
Several video clips posted by the city to an online file sharing site were not available for viewing due to a technical glitch. The city said it was working to address the problem and had released them "with the best intention they would be viewable."
Police and Williams' office did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Tuesday.
Carrelli and Dang, both rookies, told investigators Tate-Brown acted strangely, ignored multiple commands and wrestled free of their grip several times as he attempted to retrieve a gun from his car.
Several witnesses, including a man waiting for a bus and two people driving by, said they saw the men struggling and Tate-Brown repeatedly trying to run to the car, according to the transcripts.
Tate-Brown's mother, Tanya Brown-Dickerson, has said the full 37-minute video — not available Tuesday — shows her son running side-to-side to avoid being beaten and shocked by the officer's stun guns.
"They didn't show the whole 37 minutes that showed him being beaten badly and showed him running and trying to get away from them, and slung around by the cops by his hoodie," Brown-Dickerson said after suing the city in April. "By now he's been tased, he's all beat up in his head, so he's half out of it. He wasn't running away which is what I wish he would have did."
Carrelli said he did not use his Taser. Dang said he did not carry one the night of the shooting.
Brown-Dickerson says the video shows her son falling down, dying, behind his car in front of a police squad car. She said a police officer, not her son, reached into the vehicle where police say a gun was found on the console.
"It almost looks staged to me," Brown-Dickerson said.
The evidence that could be viewed Tuesday, including about 50 pages of interview transcripts, showed the officers pulling Tate-Brown's rental car over at about 2:45 a.m. on Dec. 14 because it didn't have headlights on.
Confusion over the ownership of the vehicle — Tate-Brown told the officers he borrowed it from his manager at Hertz, but a police computer showed it registered to Hertz subsidiary Dollar — quickly escalated into violence, the officers told investigators, after Carrelli noticed a gun wedged between the center console and front passenger seat.
In the transcripts, Carrelli said he asked Tate-Brown to step out of the car but that the man hesitated and his hands were shaking. Once outside the vehicle, Tate-Brown refused to be handcuffed and broke from the officers three times, he said.
The officers said he reached into the car twice and was pulled away twice, the officer said. He didn't make it the third time.
"After he gets to the other side of the trunk, but before he gets to the roof of the car, that is when I discharged my weapon one time," Carrelli told investigators.