Tucson Moves to Fire Officer Seen Fatally Shooting Man in Wheelchair
The Tucson Police Department moved swiftly on Tuesday to fire a police officer after he fatally shot a man in a motorized wheelchair who was suspected of stealing a toolbox from a Walmart and flashing a knife when challenged.
Police bodycam video shows an officer pursuing the suspect and yelling, “Do not go into the store, sir,” as the man, identified as Richard Lee Richards, 61, continued to the entrance of a Lowe’s Home Improvement store on Monday night. The officer, Ryan Remington, fired nine shots and hit the man in the back and side, the police said, causing Mr. Richards to hunch over and fall in front of a display of pink and red flowers.
A store surveillance video shows Officer Remington placing handcuffs on a motionless Mr. Richards.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Police Chief Chris Magnus said he was “deeply disturbed and troubled” by Officer Remington’s actions.
“His use of deadly force in this incident is a clear violation of department policy and directly contradicts multiple aspects of our use of force and training,” Chief Magnus said. “As a result, the department moved earlier today to terminate Officer Remington.”
Mayor Regina Romero of Tucson called Mr. Remington’s actions “unconscionable and indefensible.”
“The county attorney has my full support as they proceed with their investigation,” she said in a statement. “It is moments like this that test our resolve to ensure justice and accountability.”
Mike Storie, a lawyer representing Mr. Remington, described the swift move by the chief and the mayor’s comments as a politically motivated rush to judgment.
“This event happened roughly 24 hours ago,” he said late Tuesday, “and we have a chief of police who has fired the officer and the mayor who is calling for his indictment. These are unbelievable circumstances that I’ve never seen.”
Mr. Storie said that Mr. Remington, a member of the Tucson police force for four years, “attempted to de-escalate the situation” until Mr. Richards’s actions gave him “no choice but to use deadly force.”
“The review of the entire video and circumstances would support his position,” Mr. Storie said, acknowledging that he himself had not seen the entirety of video footage. “I’ve just seen the cut-and-paste dog-and-pony show presented by Chief Magnus.”
The encounter ended at a Lowe’s, but it began across the street at a Walmart, the police said.
Shortly before 6 p.m. Monday, a Walmart employee contacted Mr. Remington, who was working as a security officer at the retailer, and said that a man in a motorized wheelchair had stolen a toolbox, Chief Magnus said.
The employee said that he had asked Mr. Richards for a receipt for the toolbox, according to the chief. “Instead of providing a receipt,” Chief Magnus said, “Mr. Richards brandished a knife and said, ‘Here’s your receipt.’ Officer Remington wanted Mr. Richards to stop and to surrender his knife. Mr. Richards refused to comply and instead continued to head through the Walmart and Lowe’s parking lots.”
According to the Walmart employee, Mr. Richards had said, “If you want me to put down the knife, you’re going to have to shoot me,” Chief Magnus said.
Officer Remington and another officer warned the man not to enter the Lowe’s, Chief Magnus said. “When Mr. Richards failed to stop, Officer Remington fired nine rounds, striking him in the back and side.”
Brick P. Storts III, a lawyer who had recently represented Mr. Richards in criminal matters, including a charge of transporting illegal immigrants, said his client had a lengthy rap sheet dating to when he was a teenager that included being charged and convicted of attempted first-degree murder.
Mr. Storts described his former client as having many physical problems that caused him to be in a wheelchair, including a hip replacement operation and “some infection problems.” He said the shooting of Mr. Richards was “horrifying and over the top.”
“It was just so bizarre,” he said. “I could understand how he could maybe be a problem, but you don’t shoot someone in the back nine times in a wheelchair. If you did it, you’d be looking at more problems than you’d care to believe.”
Mr. Storie said the number of shots fired was influenced by Officer Remington’s police training.
“Officers are trained that if they perceive a serious and imminent deadly threat, “Mr. Storie said, “they are to fire multiple times until they perceive the threat is removed.”