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EL CENTRO, Calif. (KYMA, KECY)-The El Centro Police Department (ECPD) releases body camera footage of an officer-involved shooting that resulted in the death of an El Centro man last December.
The release of the footage comes less than a month after Manuel Verdugo's daughter, Stacey Verdugo, filed a lawsuit demanding the release of bodycam footage from officers.
According to ECPD, 50-year-old Manuel Verdugo allegedly charged at police with knives in his hands that he had stolen from the store. Police say they tried to subdue him with a bean bag gun but failed. Three officers then discharged their weapons at Verdugo to defend themselves. Verdugo died of his injuries at the scene.
Verdugo's daughter says she was told by a worker at the county coroner’s office that her father was shot at least eight to ten times.
In this newly released video, Chief of ECPD Brian Johnson issued the following statement:
Johnson says, "Our goal and priority is to deescalate situations such as these. But as this case demonstrates, officers often must react, unpredictable, rapidly involved, in these circumstances. Sometimes, in a fraction of a second. It is tragic when there is an officer-involved shooting, for the families of those involved, for the officers, for the police department, and for our community. Our command staff and use of force committee will review every aspect of our response in this case as part of our continuous effort to improve. It's important to know that officer-involved shootings are extremely rare in the city of El Centro. Since January 15, 2015, ECPD has responded to more than 210,000 calls for service. This is the first officer-involved shooting at the time."
In the video, about twelve to thirteen shots can be heard being fired at Verdugo, dropping him instantly to the ground.
Although ECPDD says Verdugo closed in on one of the officers, another video released by the attorney of Verdugo's family shows a different view of what happened.
“The key thing that's left out is that initially he's walking away from the police for quite a while he's just walking away, but then an officer drives around him, cuts him off and starts driving back towards him, which is why he turns around and starts running back, and then a second officer starts shooting at him with a shotgun from the side so he gets funneled in and then they killed him," said Alex Coolman, Coolman Law attorney.
The whole interaction with Verdugo lasted roughly 45 seconds. Coolman says the only tactic of de-escalation that he sees used is that officers initially used a bean bag gun.
Coolman says the Verdugo family has yet to receive bodycam footage from the officer that fired the shots.
Verdugo's family says he had been released from Behavioral Health custody just days prior to his death. Verdugo had sought help because of mental health issues he was dealing with.