By SAM METZ
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Body camera footage released Wednesday by a suburban police department in Utah shows five officers repeatedly firing into all sides of a car in a fatal shooting after yelling “Gun!” several times. The deceased’s family called the incident “brutal murder” in the lead-up to the release of the footage.
The March 1 shooting came after Chase Allan, 25, refused to give officers his driver’s license or comply with most of their commands. He instead responded with a litany of antigovernment views calling into question their authority to pull him over. He was initially stopped by an officer for having what police later called an “illegitimate license plate.”
Farmington Police Chief Eric Johnsen told reporters during a news conference Wednesday that officers opened fire after Allan reached downward to what they feared could be a holster or gun. He acknowledged, though, that the footage is unclear about what happens seconds before the shooting because the body cameras’ view of Allan’s hip holster is obstructed by the car door and an officer leaning in to grab him while another shouts that there is a gun. The officers shoot what appear to be many rounds into Allan’s vehicle for several moments before an officer yells to cease firing.
The five officers aren’t named in the footage released.
The video begins with the first officer’s vehicle following Allan, a 25-year-old former college soccer player, into a post office parking lot. The officer approaches Allan’s vehicle, a blue BMW, to ask about his registration due to what appears to be a questionable license plate.
“I don’t need registration and I don’t answer questions,” Allan responds, at which point the officer calls for backup and tells Allan he’s being detained.
“The direction this encounter goes is 100% in your hands,” the officer says after he and Allan argue about the law, with Allan making claims he isn’t giving the officer jurisdiction to detain him.
After initially refusing to provide his identification or registration and arguing with the officer about whether the law mandates he do so, the footage shows Allan providing a passport and, several moments later, refusing to exit his vehicle upon request.
A second officer then threatens to break Allan’s window and pull him out.
Allan, while apparently recording the encounter on his cell phone, can be seen switching which hand he’s holding the phone.
The edited police compilation video shown at Wednesday’s news conference then pauses, and focuses on Allan’s hand movement, which frees up the hand closest to a hip holster under his jacket. No firearm is visible in the holster or anywhere else in the footage at this point.
The officer then repeats his request that Allan exit the vehicle. The door opens and Allan can be seen moving, although it’s unclear whether he’s trying to unbuckle his seatbelt or access the holster.
A split-second later, the officer yells “Gun!” Backup officers move to flank the vehicle’s rear and passenger side, and they begin shooting into the car. An officer yells to cease fire after several seconds of shooting. Officers have not claimed that Allan returned fire.
Farmington Police later released photos showing a handgun found on the floorboard of the vehicle. Edited excerpts of the footage released Wednesday show an empty holster on Allan’s hip as his body is dragged from the car, and the handgun on the floorboard.
The release of the footage one week after the shooting followed harsh criticisms from the Allan family of the Farmington Police, in which they accuse officers of “stonewalling” rather than providing answers about the killing. The family has raised questions about the initial officer’s decision to call for backup — which the police chief said was routine — and the number of rounds fired.
Allan’s noncompliant rhetoric in the footage also comes after speculation about the family’s involvement in the so-called Sovereign Citizen movement stemming from placards that can be seen on his vehicle and audio released from previous incidents in a local courthouse. Photographs from local media of the vehicle after the incident show a flag sticker with a stars, stripes and the phrase “Utah, American State Citizen.”
The Sovereign Citizen Movement espouses antigovernmental views about issues ranging from whether the government can levy taxes to require license plates. It enjoys small followings, particularly in western states where skepticism of government power has historically run deep.